Local Health Update: Public forum on medical marijuana brings cheers and boos
There was a lot of cheering and booing going on Thursday night, August 28, at the Medical Marijuana Forum hosted by the Lakeland Ledger as proponents of each side came to support their cause. Offered as a way of informing the public— and not a debate— on both sides of the proposed Amendment 2 on the November 4th ballot, each side was represented by panelists who put everything on the table.
First to speak was Irvin Rosenfeld, a 61 year-old who was diagnosed at age 10 with a rare, debilitating bone disease. He found relief from his pain with marijuana while in college. He lobbied the FDA, and was approved for medical marijuana supplied by the government in 1982. He holds himself as evidence to medicinal marijuana’s effectiveness and safety over the long-term, saying, “I’ve used 10 joints a day for 32 years… and my lung capacity is at 108 percent of normal.” He also uses his success as a stockbroker as proof to dispel arguments that using medical marijuana will cause problems with memory, focus, and motivation.
Next to speak was Dr. Sergio Seoane, a Lakeland family practice physician who opposes Amendment 2. He focused on the negative medical effects of marijuana, saying, “It distorts your sense of time… it alters your spatial perception… it impairs short-term memory, it impairs your attention span, it impairs your ability to assess risks, it impairs cognitive function,” just to name a few side effects he mentioned. In short, Dr. Seoane maintained too few studies have been done on the effects of the drug.
Then, Winter Haven psychologist, Jeffrey Reddout, took the podium to speak “officially as a neutral person” to the science of using marijuana. “It’s kind of tricky,” he said, “because what you’ll find is that science says some things that support medical marijuana being used, and science also says some things that you really got to watch out for, because there are some down sides to it.” Essentially, Dr. Reddout maintained that studies outside the U.S.— as a Class 1 Narcotic, marijuana studies are not allowed in the U.S.— have shown that medical marijuana is beneficial treatment for some diseases and ailments, such as those featuring neuropathic pain, for cancer-induced nausea and vomiting, rheumatoid arthritis, and so on. However, the biggest problem with marijuana has been the “risks to the developing brain.” According to Dr. Reddout, science shows that marijuana needs to be kept out of the hands of children and teens.
Concern over the liberal language of Amendment 2 was at the forefront of the next speaker’s presentation. Dr. Jessica Spencer is an addiction specialist who currently works as the statewide coalition director of Vote No on 2. “Once I read the language in this Amendment,” she said, “I was extremely concerned at how liberally it’s been written, and that it’s more loosely written than other states that have medical marijuana laws.” Under the belief that marijuana is a gateway drug, leading to heavier and more deadly drugs, Dr. Spencer argued that the wording of Amendment 2 would make marijuana easy for anyone— of any age— to get it because the unscrupulous pill mills that have plagued the Sunshine State would just become pot shops. Simply put, she believes that Amendment 2 is a ruse to legalize marijuana for everyday use. Additionally, because it is a Constitutional Amendment, Dr. Spencer maintains that, once passed, Amendment 2 would not be easily changed or modified, even for improvement, after the fact.
The heavy hitters were saved for last, with leading Amendment 2 supporter John Morgan, the well-known Orlando attorney from the Morgan and Morgan law firm, going first. Speaking to concerns about it being a Constitutional Amendment, he maintains that they tried going to Tallahassee to start the law process, but the Florida State Legislature “wouldn’t even have a hearing,” he asserted. Basically, it was the only way they could get such a law on the books. His second point was that medical marijuana works, period, based on witnessing his own brother’s struggle with pain, from evidence like Mr. Rosenfeld, and from studies done abroad.
Last was Polk County Sheriff, Grady Judd. He explained that he absolutely wants to help the very sick, but wondered, “Why was the Constitutional Amendment 2 written full of loopholes? In a nut shell, Sheriff Judd maintained that he believed that Amenment 2, “in its current form, would create de facto legalization,” of marijuana because it would be so easy for anyone to get.
story by ERIKA ALDRICH