NORML pushes for medical marijuana access in Florida
Local activists with the West Park-based Florida chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) have been working to change public opinion in South Florida since 2009.
Those efforts paid off in November when a 71 percent majority of Florida voters approved a state constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana.
Patients with "debilitating conditions" including cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson's disease and post-traumatic stress disorder are allowed access to the drug.
Still, the nonprofit has more work to do, said Karen Goldstein, NORML's state deputy director.
"Our ultimate goal is repeal of laws making adults into criminals for using a product that's safer than alcohol and most of the medications people take," Goldstein said.
Medical marijuana may help those suffering from other maladies as well.. Studies show it can reduce anxiety and have an effect against sleep disorders. Derivatives of marijuana have been found to relive arthritis discomfort; THC, the active ingredient of the drug, may also slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The Forum spoke to attorney Michael Minardi, legal director for NORML of Florida, who answered questions about medical marijuana.
Q: Why should Amendment 2 be expanded to allow for a wider range of clinical applications?A: Cannabis has been proven over and over again to reduce inflammation, which is one of the biggest symptoms occurring in most diseases.According to a 1988 administrative ruling by Drug Enforcement Agency Judge Francis Young, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."The endocannabinoid system, a naturally occurring system in our bodies, regulates many of our bodily functions. That is why cannabis treatment should be a first option rather than a last resort.Q: Does access to medical cannabis reduce prescription drug use?A: Yes. Not only do we know this from patient reporting, we also know this from Colorado's record. There, sales of prescription medications in the cost of Medicare went down significantly. Estimates are medical marijuana saved about $165 million in 2013.The biggest increase in cannabis use across the country seems to be coming from the elderly population and those that are 45 and above.Q: What concerns do people have about allowing medical marijuana in their communities?A: Mostly that it attracts crime and undesirable people. According to a recent study by Realtor.com, property values have risen in medical marijuana states as jobs and business booms.Cannabis doesn't increase crime. It's a safe, effective medication that people should have access to just like they can buy prescriptions in every community across this country. Cannabis is a medicine (and) should be treated no differently. CONTINUE READING ARTICLE
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