Medical Marijuana Discussed at Forum

August 3, 2015

Medical Marijuana Discussed at Forum

By Will Isern, Pensacola News Journal
October 2, 2014

Medical marijuana is coming.

The question is, who’s going to be able to get it?

In June, Gov. Rick Scott signed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, which will allow a limited selection of patients to receive treatments derived from a non-euphoric strain of marijuana known as “Charlotte’s Web” to treat conditions such as epilepsy, Lou Gehrig’s disease and cancer.

That law is set to take effect Jan 1, 2015.

Separately, Florida voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on Amendment 2 on the Nov. 4 ballot, which would allow for a much wider prescribing of medical marijuana and, critics say, set the state on a path to become like Washington and Colorado where recreational marijuana shops can be found on every other block.

With two very different measures regarding medical marijuana coming through different avenues of the state’s legal system, and the controversial nature of medical marijuana itself, there is some confusion, not to mention misinformation, floating around the debate.

It’s that confusion that a panel attempted to address Thursday night to a crowd of about 60 people at the West Florida Public Library on Spring Street.

The panel was made of up Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach), Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, primary care physician Dr. Joseph Rosado, neurologist Dr. J. Ben Renfroe, and epilepsy patient Whilhelm Perez.

The forum was hosted by the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, who have advocated for the passage of medical marijuana legislation for epilepsy patients as it has been shown to significantly reduce seizures in some patients.

“We just hope to provide factual, objective information because they’re hearing all these different sides of the story,” said Epilepsy Foundation of Florida CEO Karen Basha Egozi. “We just want people to be informed so they can make an informed decision.”

Though the forum was intended to address the merits of medical marijuana as a treatment for epilepsy patients, much of the time was spent differentiating between Amendment 2 and the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, and delving into the legal minutia of implementing either measure.

Early on, Gaetz and Morgan sought to distance themselves from Amendment 2.

“We don’t want Florida to become the next Colorado,” Morgan said.

“We’ve seen how (that amendment language) plays out,” Gaetz said. “There is an open door for recreational use, and that’s why I won’t be voting for Amendment 2.”

The doctors on the panel agreed that more research is needed into the viability of marijuana as a medicine, which has since been hindered in American because of the federal government’s categorization of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, higher than cocaine and morphine.

Perez was the only panel member to explicitly express support for Amendment 2.

“Can’t we at least try it and tweak it if it doesn’t work?” he asked.

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