Floridians rally for medical marijuana vote
Legalized medical marijuana seems to be in high demand, as it gets more difficult to find people against its legalization. According to a poll conducted recently by Quinnipiac University, the majority of Floridians support making cannabis a legal option for the sick. The poll found that 82 percent of Florida voters approve medical use of marijuana if a doctor prescribes it. If the initiative does make it to the November ballot and passes, Florida could become the 20th state to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
People United for Medical Marijuana is an organization that since 2009 has lobbied to get the vote for medical marijuana on the ballot in Florida. Their campaign, United for Care, is managed by Ben Pollara, who joined the cause this past February. Pollara was soon followed by highprofi le John Morgan of Morgan & Morgan Law Firm, who serves as the organization’s chairman. The two say they personally have seen the positive effects the drug can have for those fi ghting debilitating diseases and want to break through the barriers that keep the afflicted from getting relief that marijuana is said to provide.
In 2012, Pollara conducted a nationwide poll to get an idea of how many Americans would support the plant’s use medically. When the results came in, Pollara said he was surprised to fi nd that more than half of the U.S. population supports the idea. He quickly contacted the Miami Herald, which published the fi ndings that same year. That was when Pollara contacted Morgan through email asking for support from the well-known lawyer. “He responded back to me almost immediately and said, ‘Mark my words, I’m going to spearhead this,’” Pollara said. “Three days later I was having lunch with him in Orlando.” Pollara, a long-time political lobbyist and consultant, has spent thousands of his own dollars to familiarize the public with his initiative.
Radio and television commercials featuring Morgan endorsing medical marijuana have aired around the state. A petition to get the issue on the ballot has been circulating the state for months, and proponents have gathered more than 700,000 signatures from those who believe the subject should be on the ballot.
Pollara said that he and Morgan receive dozens of emails every day from people who either use medical marijuana or have had members of their families use it that are testament to its success.
“There is a myriad of things that people use it for,” Pollara said. “I met a father of a young girl a few weeks ago who has a rare genetic disorder, and one of the symptoms of her disorder is that she has literally hundreds of seizures every day. He was able to try one of the various chemical extracts from marijuana that has been proven to prevent seizures, and after putting a drop on his little girl’s tongue, within minutes she had gone from seizing almost all of the time to looking like a pretty normal little kid.
“It’s a good alternative to things like chemo where you’re throwing up all the time. Marijuana can help ease nausea, increase appetite and that’s a big deal. There are a lot of uses for marijuana.” Medical marijuana has treated illnesses such as Glaucoma, Parkinsons, various cancers, headaches, nerve pain, nausea, seizures, loss of appetite due to illness and Crohn’s disease. While Pollara agrees that it is not the best idea to smoke anything, there are many other ways to benefi t from effects of the drug. Patients can choose to ingest the substance with food or swallow it in capsules. He says he doesn’t understand why people would be against something so benefi cial. “No one has ever died from the effects of marijuana,” Pollara said, noting that thousands die from Tylenol and Advil overdoses every year.
According to the Report of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, a person weighing 154 pounds would have to eat 46 pounds of marijuana in order to reach a state of overdose. The Examiner reported that the number of people who have died from using the drug is “zilch.”
Student Alex Bos, a senior majoring in biology, is a member of a chapter at Florida Gulf Coast University called Students for Sensible Drug Policy. According to the chapter’s national website, the Washington D.C.-based organization’s main goal is to “end the war on drugs.” One of its main initiatives is to spread knowledge of the helpful effects of pot when used for medicinal purposes.
FGCU’s chapter has only been around for one semester, but has already left quite a mark on campus. The group has tabled and traversed around campus preaching the importance of being informed and having an opinion on medical marijuana, even if it doesn’t necessarily coincide with theirs.
“We’ve been working with several other Florida university chapters as well,” Bos said. “We’ve all been teaming up to get petitions and get the word out. The students here have been great; we’ve talked to a lot of them. We’ve had some really interesting dialogue and a lot of them who were already informed have just come up and talked to us for a while. We’ve had some that were on the fence who we’ve actually had some nice discussions with, and we’ve even had people come up who are adamantly against it. But everyone is always very respectful.”
Bos chose to get involved with SSDP for multiple reasons. His ultimate goal is to become a doctor someday, which he thinks will call for the use of medical marijuana to treat patients. He also has two aunts who are undergoing treatment for cancer, one of whom is using prescribed marijuana to cope with the pain and side effects of treatment. “We had an offi cer of our club go to Colorado this past year for a medical drug convention,” Bos said. “And he was saying that almost everyone who was there knew someone who had received medical marijuana treatment, and that’s why they support it so much — because they’ve seen how much easier it can make a person’s life.” Bos, who has signed Pollara’s petition to get medical marijuana on the ballot this year, thinks that it is good to have a choice.
“This is just one way that you can look at policy in America,” Bos said. “For myself, anyway, this has been a chance for me to get into our local government and see how policies really work and how I can make a difference.”
Bos and Pollara seem to be on the same page as they each do what they can to fi ght for a cause that they think is worthy. Pollara advises that the best way to make a difference is to simply inform yourself by checking out the polls, reading the studies and talking to people who have seen how things work.
“Just get involved,” Pollara said. “Because it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone can be personally affected by an illness or pain. You shouldn’t have to move to another state to receive the treatment you deserve.”
According to Forthepeople.com, Morgan does not plan to stop campaigning for marijuana until the people of Florida have a fair chance to vote for the legalization of its medical use.