Pubdate: Sat, 18 Oct 2014
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2014 Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Author: Tom Lyons
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Paul Sloan's crusade has him paying for billboards and writing letters
to the editor, hoping there is time to overcome what he sees as a
misguided but effective disinformation campaign.

Big names in law enforcement statewide are deeply involved, and not on
his side.

What cause has him so willing to reach into his wallet?

Well, Sloan is a local pain clinic owner who helped lobby for and
crafted clinic regulations. But, the odd thing is, he isn't thrilled
with the drugs prescribed at his business., and he does not mind saying so.

Doctors at his clinic frequently prescribe an addictive and hazardous
array of drugs called opioids, such as oxycodone and its cousins.

Sloan says he much wishes patients could use a lot less of those
addictive drugs.

"What this stuff is doing to people is terrible," Sloan told me. "It
changes them."

They are a necessary evil, to some extent. Patients who need the drugs
deal with such severe pain that life is misery whenever something
blocks that source of relief. Sloan has argued in the past that
federal drug agents aiming to prevent abuse of those drugs have been
overzealous in restricting supplies to pharmacies, which has caused
shortages that make legitimate pain patients do without.

But at least he knows those policing efforts are based on a rational
concern: Recreational users want these drugs, too, and many become
fiercely addicted. So do many legitimate users.

That harsh reality has him crusading again, but not for easier access
to opioids. Now he is paying for billboards that urge people to vote
yes on Amendment 2, the proposal to legalize medical use of marijuana
with a doctor's prescription.

Sloan says he doesn't want to get into the marijuana business. He has
no plans to run a dispensary. But he would be thrilled to see his
clinic writing prescriptions for marijuana. He is convinced it is far
safer and far less addictive that what his clinic is prescribing now.

Research indicates marijuana or cannabis extracts can help some pain
patients use dramatically less of the truly dangerous and addictive
opioids they get now. Some probably won't need opioids at all, he believes.

That doesn't mean his billboards are a good financial investment.
Though he much wants Amendment 2 to pass, he says he has no idea if
that will help or hurt his bottom line. Family doctors would be able
to prescribe marijuana if the amendment passes, so his campaign isn't
a scheme to drum up business for pain clinics, Sloan says.

"But I'd sleep a lot better," Sloan said. As is, after Tylenol and the
like have failed, there is no good in-between medicine that doctors
can try when treating severe pain.

It is just insane, he says, that anyone who accepts and understands
the need for opioid prescriptions could even consider voting to reject
medicinal marijuana. The dangers of marijuana - even the most
questionable, hyped-up, probably fictional ones - pale in comparison
to the dangers of opioids.

Sheriffs statewide insist they know otherwise, thanks to long
experience busting people who use marijuana for fun.

That is indeed a long history, but the experience seems irrelevant to

Yet they and others in the well-funded anti-medical marijuana campaign
have made a dent. Though polls once showed the proposal as likely to
pass, recent ones show support may have slipped to below the 60
percent needed to approve the amendment.

I share Sloan's hope that Amendment 2 will pass. Banning medical
marijuana while opiods are being prescribed seems like deciding a
butter knife is too dangerous but a chain saw is OK.

But I'm not qualified to give medical advice. For that, you should
probably go to your sheriff.  
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