Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jul 2014
Source: Florida Today (Melbourne, FL)
Copyright: 2014 Florida Today
Author: Jodi James
Note: Jodi James is the executive director of Florida Cannabis Action 
Network, a statewide organization headquartered in Melbourne. James 
lives in Melbourne.


I would like to challenge Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos' claims in her 
recent column in opposition to the passage of Amendment 2, which 
would legalize medical marijuana.

Dr. Haridopolos describes life under Amendment 2 as the wild west of 
cannabis - pot shops on every corner, no quality control, children 
with unlimited access, no tests for molds or bugs; when in fact, that 
is the current condition under prohibition.

She warns of financial opportunists or recreational marijuana users 
who will exploit Amendment 2. Right now, profiteers prey on patients 
who are forced into the same position as recreational users. Patients 
find supplies are untested, with no labeling requirements, no 
guarantees of purity, nor even an assurance of regular access.

After the passage of Amendment 2, local planning and zoning boards 
can decide where medical marijuana treatment centers are located. 
Current distribution points for cannabis include the kid down the 
street and that guy around the corner in nearly every neighborhood.

Post Amendment 2, we can use health and fire inspectors to assure 
locations are clean and safe. The state Department of Agriculture can 
regulate cultivation and the Department of Health can support 
doctors. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation and 
Office of Insurance Regulation can protect patients. This is a far 
cry from the back streets that patients now navigate to access a 
plant that was part of the pharmacopeia since 3,000 B.C.

Amendment 2 puts cannabis in the hands of qualified doctors and puts 
cannabis back in the medicine cabinet. Indeed, doctors are ready to 
recommend cannabis for patients and some already do. Dr. Ray 
McKnight, president of the Monroe County Medical Society, speaks 
openly about treating patients who use marijuana as a complementary 
therapy in the treatment of AIDS or in place of narcotics.

"In my practice, I've seen many patients who benefited from 
marijuana, which pharmacologically is a non-narcotic," McKnight said.

I wish every family was perfectly healthy. I wish everyone was 
afforded access to the best preventative medicine, that accidents 
never happened and war was a thing of the past. Our reality is far 
different. The children who may benefit from cannabis are already 
using drugs; some are very toxic, dangerous and often experimental. 
Some suffer from diseases that most of us have never heard of because 
they are so rare. If the family and the doctor agree cannabis may be 
an effective treatment, they should be free to try this option. 
Amendment 2 gives them a right to cannabis.

It is not surprising Dr. Haridopolos is ill-informed regarding the 
therapeutic value of cannabis. Only 14 percent of U.S. medical 
schools teach students about cannabinoids, the active ingredient in 
cannabis. The international medical community, not bound by federal 
prohibition, discovered a system of naturally occurring cannabinoids 
and a network of cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. The 
discovery of this endocannabinoid system has led researchers to 
understand why cannabis is an effective treatment for so many disorders.

The federal government understands the potential of cannabis 
medicines. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began 
receiving patents on cannabinoids as a neuroprotectant, 
anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant in 2001. The patents list the use 
of certain cannabinoids as useful in neurodegenerative diseases such 
as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and dementia.

Where a regulated market exists for medically legal cannabis, 
patients find a variety of ways to use cannabis. Surveys show 
patients prefer smoking to other applications, because of the 
immediate relief it provides for someone with nausea, muscle pain or 
muscle spasms. Preparations of cannabis extracts, ranging from teas, 
tinctures, transdermal patches, salves and creams, are also 
available, and widely used. In more than 20 states, a patient can use 
cannabis, in many forms, to treat a variety of their ailments.

Floridians deserve the right to have safe, legal access, too.
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