Claiming that medical marijuana would be a safer, non-addictive and more-effective alternative to OxyContin, Orlando attorney John Morgan condemned the prescription pain killer in a speech Friday to argue that many of its users would be far better off smoking pot.
Speaking to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, Morgan said that OxyContin, a commonly prescribed – and abused – pain medication, kills 16,000 people a year and addicts many more. He claimed marijuana – which is illegal in Florida and most states – is comparatively harmless and more effective.
“It is truly a disgrace what goes on,” said Morgan, best known for his Morgan & Morgan personal injury law firm, who chairs a statewide campaign to get a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana on the 2014 Florida ballot. “OxyContin is a poison that is put into our system by pharmaceutical companies that make billions and billions of dollars.”
OxyContin is a brand-name drug whose active ingredient is oxycodone, an opioid analgesic. The Centers for Disease Control reported in February that there were 16,651 opioid analgesics overdose deaths nationally in 2010.
However, a statewide law-enforcement crackdown on illegal sales and use has cut the number of oxycodone-related Florida deaths by 41 percent, to 735 in 2012, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Still, oxycodone remains the leading cause of overdose deaths in the state.
Purdue Pharma, which manufactures OxyContin, did not immediately respond Friday to Morgan’s speech.
Morgan’s point was to make marijuana look good by comparison.
“One thing I think most of us accept as truth is medical marijuana works, and it works for a broad variety of illnesses and ailments,” Morgan said. “It’s helpful with ALS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, all sorts of chronic pain.”
Morgan chairs People United for Medical Marijuana, which is running a petition drive to get legalization on the November 2014 ballot. The group surpassed 100,000 signatures last month and has sent the proposed amendment language to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. It will then be reviewed by the state Supreme Court for ballot validation. People United would then have to gather at least 683,159 voter signatures.
Morgan has contributed $150,000 of the $248,000 that the campaign raised in the first six months of this year.
After his 35-minute speech, at least four Tiger Bay members approached Morgan privately to say that they or someone they know has cancer or some other ailment and were interested in his message. Morgan said his father, Ramon, used it while he was dying from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and esophageal cancer 20 years ago.