You may have noticed that medical marijuana, or cannabis, has been in the news a lot lately. You could even say it’s becoming a mainstream topic. There is no better time for people to examine the overwhelming evidence and begin to accept that marijuana has medicinal value.

Did you know that there’s no risk of overdose with cannabis and it has been used as medicine for 5,000 years? It’s true.

The facts are clear. Knowledge about the benefits of cannabis is finally spreading.

Kevin, a Florida resident, is 33 and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Recently, legislation passed in Tallahassee that more aggressively regulates pain clinics, so he is unable to manage his pain effectively. He has heard that marijuana could help, so he calls me as an information source.

I told him that marijuana is a pain reliever and strong anti-inflammatory. When eaten, one dose could last as long as six hours. He would no longer have the extreme constipation that comes with repeated opiate use. Kevin wants to know how fast we can get the laws changed in Florida so he can legally use marijuana.

I get these calls often, and each time I am reminded of the insanity of it all. This is one of the safest pain medications available, used all over the world, but Floridians can’t use it to treat serious illnesses. Our state’s population has one of the largest shares of retirees, and we can’t give them legal access to a medication that is safe, effective, affordable – and one of the least addictive pain killers available.

More lunacy occurs legislatively, where this debate looks like a civil war. Sixteen states andWashington, D.C., have passed legislation that allow for use of medicinal cannabis. The federal government grows and distributes marijuana for research; however, it continues to declare that it has no medical value.

This year, for the first time, we had two bills introduced in Florida to support medical marijuana. However, both died in committee without being given a hearing.

The small glimmer of hope we have is our judicial branch. Court rulings in Florida have upheld medical marijuana use as a necessity on at least three occasions, juries have refused to convict legitimate patients, and prosecutors are less and less likely to go to trial. There are patients who have refused plea bargains, insisted on going to trial, and walked away with all charges dropped.

The reality is that laws can be changed immediately if the public demands it. But there is a problem. People don’t want to talk about it. An ABC News poll found that eight out of 10 Americans agree that medical cannabis should be allowed. It is a topic that needs more discussion among peers.

Chances are very good that you already know someone who has benefited from medical cannabis. So start by asking your friends if they know anyone who has used cannabis to develop an appetite during cancer treatments. Ask them to share their stories about loved ones who have health conditions that seem hopeless. Then, ask them if they have researched cannabis as a possible alternative.

We all need to speak up and tell our stories, without fear of prosecution or retribution.

The ballot initiative we are circulating requires 676,811 valid signatures from Florida registered voters to place the issue on the 2014 ballot. Please sign it.

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Another critical part of the process is encouraging people to talk to their legislators, who need reassurance from the voters in order to support changing the laws.

It’s time to seriously consider medical cannabis in Florida. By simply discussing it, you are telling patients that help is on the way.

News Hawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2012 Orlando Sentinel
Contact: [email protected]
Website: OrlandoSentinel.com
Author: Kim Russell
Note: Kim Russell is the chair of People United for Medical Marijuana
based in Orlando.