Sunshine Edition
3:20 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Self-Medicating Floridians Call For Legal Medical Marijuana

A bill was passed by the state Senate this week that would OK a very limited strain of medical marijuana.

The cannabis extract is known as Charlotte's Web, which is geared to help neurological conditions for a limited amount of epilepsy patients.

Credit Talia / Flickr CC

Dahlia Barnhart was 2 years old and living in Tampa when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. Her mom Moriah moved the family to Memphis so Dahlia could get treatment at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

While they were there, Moriah came across research that pointed to the benefit of medical marijuana in inhibiting the cancer and mitigating the effects of chemotherapy. But it wasn’t legal in Florida or Tennessee, so the family moved to Colorado Springs.

Dahlia's mom says she would move her family back "in a heart beat" if medical marijuana was legalized in Florida.

"A 3-year-old who's been in the hospital for a third of their life really deserves to be at home with the love and support of family and friends," she says. "We're pretty desperate to get back."

Moriah says that THC, the chemical in cannabis that gets people high, kills her daughter's cancer cells.

But that's not the only way marijuana can be used as medicine.

David from Fort Lauderdale smokes marijuana four to six times a day to help with arthritis stemming from his dwarfism. He declined to disclose his last name. He says doctors suggest marijuana for his chronic pain.

"They endorse it verbally to me, off the record," he says. "But, of course, they cannot prescribe it or recommend it in most states because they'll lose their license."

David says legalizing cannabis in Florida would "revolutionize everything."

Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth of Ingham County in Michigan does not think it's a positive revolution. His state legalized marijuana in 2008.

"The issue of more people being high is certainly troubling for our deputies," says Wriggelsworth. "We encounter [people] on the roads in various states of intoxication because they're taking their so-called 'medicine.'"

The sheriff says medical marijuana was initially advertised with elderly people in Michigan's TV ads.

"But you go by these medical marijuana dispensaries and they all seem to be people from about 18 to 25 going in them," Wriggelsworth says. "I don't see many elderly people going in them."