Medical cannabis advocates gather at Tampa film premier

06/11/13 Samuel Johnson
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Despite a federal prohibition, several states allow medical marijuana, though it’s outlawed in Florida. The film American Drug War 2 focuses on a two-year-old boy's struggle with cancer during and after he was treated cannabis. The premier was held last Thursday at Westshore Movie Theater in Tampa

Cathy Jordan is president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. Jordan has ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease and understands firsthand the medical benefits of cannabis. She wants to legalize the medical use of marijuana because it’s an easier goal than complete legalization.

”I really want for medical because I do not think Florida will go for legalization. For the last time we actually worked in Tallahassee. We had four diehard Republicans that they are going to ram the doctors an go for strictly legalization; not to go for medical. Now four Republicans to go for total legalization in morning? I mean, one's a fluke but four?”

The reality is that cannabis is still illegal in Florida. Someone familiar with this fact is Donnie Clark. He was arrested in the 1980's for growing a notorious strain of marijuana in Florida called Myakka Gold. President Clinton commuted Clark's life sentence on his last day in office. Clark says the government crackdown marijuana growers is unjust and unfair.

”You really get pissed off on the count of the government and the pharmaceuticals and the government. Pharmaceuticals paid the government off and I don't think the government is ever going to it. It's going to have to go through, just like we do now, state by state. 'Cause they're paid off. I mean if somebody gives you a million dollars not to vote for marijuana coming in here you ain't going to do it. That's exactly what they are doing; they're not recognizing the medical part of it; there's no medical part of it. It's all about money like everything else in this country.”

Another person who could benefit from an easing of marijuana laws in Florida is Ryan Roman. He has been battling spinal and brain cancer for 8 years. He is also a member of Florida Cannabis Action Network and relies on synthetic cannabis.

”I'm prescribed a synthetic, Marinol, which is kind of a joke because a person who has cancer like myself; that's not necessarily what I need. Yes, it helps with the nauseousness and it helps with stuff like that but I need the other part that's in the plant. I need the CBD's. I need not the THC. You know, I need the whole plant. That's what helps me.”

The Department of Veteran's Affairs has given US veterans access to medical marijuana, but only in states where it is already legal. In a phone interview, Al Byrne, a war veteran and co-founder of Medical Cannabis, says there are two main reasons Florida should have access to medical marijuana.

”cannabis is wonderful for old age problems: pain, arthritis, rheumatism all that kind of stuff. It's great for Crohn's Disease. Great for dementia. It halts the progression of Alzheimer's. It kills cancer cells. Now I know it sounds like; wow, these guys are still going off on this unbelievable stuff. But it is true that all these things are effected by cannabis because of the endocannabinoid system. The other reason we are very interested in Florida is because the co-founders Patients out of Time, that would be me and my wife Mary Lynn Mathre, are both veterans. We have a number of veterans on our board. And we are very interested in veteran's issues.

Robert Jordan, also a US war veteran and Florida Cannabis Action Network member, sees the legalization of medical marijuana preventing the rate of military suicides caused by PTSD.

”They're finding is states where it's (cannabis) legal the veterans can use it without repercussions from the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) and states where it's not legal like here in Florida. If I use it and I go to get medical service from the VA I'll get turned down. So, therefore we're being discriminated against. But they're finding out that the states where it's legal the suicide rate is down between 5 and 12 percent.”

Although the “Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act” stalled in the Florida Legislature without getting a hearing, advocates still remain hopeful. John Morgan, a prominent Florida trial lawyer with the firm Morgan and Morgan, has pledged to politically and financially promote Florida medical marijuana initiatives.

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