Medical Marijuana Use Gaining Support Among FL Voters

via The Miami Times

The idea on whether marijuana is good or not will be for Florida residents to decide in the upcoming Gubernatorial elections in November when a controversial amendment will go before voters to legalize the a drug which mothers say will help heal their children who are suffering from epilepsy, cancer and other debilitating illnesses.

Parents all over the state took their campaign to legalized medical marijuana to Tallahassee sparking a heated debate with lawmakers before winning an intense battle that eventually led The Florida Supreme Court in January to approve placing the issue on the election ballot by a 4-3 vote. If passed, Florida will become third state to to sell the marijuana, behind Washington and Colorado, where sales are skyrocketing in stores where the drug became available January 1.

Although the initiative is not yet a law, supporters say it is start to legalized marijuana.

Lawmakers fear the the drug will be abused and will send the wrong message to citizens. Florida Governor Rick Scott vowed in January to veto any legislation that allowed state residents to puff the stuff even for medical or good reasons.

But with the issue now on the ballot, the fate of medical marijuana looks promising in the hands of voters. Quinnipiac University found an astounding 82 percent of Floridians would support a medical marijuana constitutional amendment. Florida requires only 60% of the vote to pass the initiative. And voters may also point towards studies by a French doctor, Jacques-Joseph Moreau, who in 1840 discovered that marijuana it repressed headaches, increased appetites and assisted people to sleep.

However, there are negative effects associated with the plant, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse who warns that inhaling marijuana can alter one’s perception and mood, impair coordination. They also cautioned the drug can disrupt learning and memory capabilities that can damage thinking and problem solving skills.

Dr. Waldo Castro is a primary care physician from Miami with an expertise in ayurvedic medicine, the science that researches solutions to help individuals live longer lives. An international speaker who lectures on social, health and wellness issues, Castro is a weekly radio host for 1550 AM and the Executive Director on the Board of Community Actions at Together We Can Initiative.

“Young people are at a greater risk because their brain isn’t fully developed until they are 25,” Dr. Castro said. “[People] are appealed to it because of our humanistic tendency to be compassionate. But it is reported that one joint causes the same effect as if having just smoked five cigarettes. It’s very aggressive.”

Vivilora D. Perkins Smith, the Project Coordinator at the Urban Partnership Drug-Free Community Coalition for Liberty City, is against medical marijuana coming to Florida and, more specifically, Miami-Dade County. Smith fears the drug will land in the wrong hands.

“We have tons of problems with it being illegal now. Children are buying it, kids are smoking in groups and they are skipping school,” Perkins Smith said. “We need to be consistently and constantly educated on it and not wait for the day of voting [to do research].”

But the Director of South Miami Drug-Free Coalition, Margaret Sotham, believes that if we are committed to medical value in marijuana, we need to do it the right way.

“When a product isn’t regulated by the FDA there is no way to guarantee its’ purity. We can extract the necessary compounds and put them in a safe product—let’s work together to do that to make available for these families,” Sotham said.

But with sales booming in Colorado and Washington, citizens throughout the country are beginning to show a lot of support for recreational and medical marijuana. State officials are praising the drug for generating much-needed revenue for their struggling economies. According to the Huffington Post, Colorado made over $1 million in medical marijuana sales on the first day of legalization.

“I think we need it here. It’s good for palliative care [physicians, nurses and social workers who specialize in the relief of pain and stress from serious disease] and people who are dying from their illness,” said University of South Florida medical cancer research graduate student, Kamirah Maharaj.

Supporters of the marijuana also said a new law would also decriminalize the plant, reduce arrests and allow police to concentrate on bigger crimes. According to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union, African-Americans are 4.2 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people, despite equal usage rates. In Miami-Dade County, the arrests are at a staggering 5.5 times greater.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Miami-Dade County had the ninth most arrests for possession of any county in the country.

Monitoring the Future has been studying the behaviors, attitudes and values of American secondary school students, college students and young adults since 1975. A recent study of theirs found that marijuana use among teens rose in 2011 for the fourth straight year. But they also found that alcohol use within the same group reached a historical low. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32 percent of underage drinking deaths were traffic fatalities; 30 percent were homicide; 14 percent were suicides; 9 percent were alcohol poisonings and 15 percent were other causes. As of yet, there are no reported overdoses or deaths from marijuana.

“I strongly believe that we have alternatives that are standardized; because how much dose do you provide of marijuana? It’s very complex,” Dr. Castro said. “I’m not talking about denying that option to anyone who needs it. That would be mean.”

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