Sarasota News Leader

04/05/2013

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Sarasota News Leader April 5, 2013 OPINION to trump laws that were unsympathetic to human suffering. The Jordans have been tireless advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana. In fact, a bill currently before the Legislature is titled, "The Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act." It is the third year in a row that a bill to legalize medical marijuana has been filed. And although 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, no bill has ever even been heard in committee in Florida. The Republican-controlled Legislature, especially the House, is loath to allow any legalization of marijuana, despite the significant medical benefits for those with glaucoma, cancer, ALS and a host of other conditions. What is most difficult to understand about the issue is the apparent hysteria that persists among those opposed to the drug's use, especially for medicinal purposes. By the mid-1930s, marijuana was illegal in every state, considered a dangerous drug. Severe criminal penalties were assessed in most states against those charged with even simple possession. In the 35 years that medical use of marijuana has been part of the national dialogue on illegal drugs, the empirical evidence of its benefits has been mounting steadily. But controlled clinical trials have not been possible because the federal government has taken a very aggressive stance with regard to enforcement of anti-drug laws, and many medical researchers have not wanted the scrutiny that attempting to conduct medical marijuana research might have brought them. In Florida, a state with the largest percentage nationally of citizens 65 and older, the need to utilize the drug for curative, maintenance and palliative purposes is great. Yet, the Legislature will not even allow a hearing on a medical marijuana bill. That leaves only one option for the people: a referendum on a constitutional amendment legalizing the drug for medical purposes. While it is a long shot for the 2014 ballot, it is not out of the question. Page 59 Earlier this year, People United for Medical Marijuana, a PAC advocating for a ballot initiative, published a poll that showed 70 percent of Floridians favored the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use. After Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for medical use, they discovered the attendant evils predicted since the 1930s did not materialize. So they allowed their citizens to vote on a referendum to legalize marijuana in small quantities for recreational use. Both initiatives passed. It is difficult to believe that marijuana was universally criminalized in the United States only a few years after women were first given the right to vote. It would be another two decades before racial segregation was struck down, almost four before a man walked on the moon and more than five before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet well into the 21st century, there still are entrenched forces determined to resist a more enlightened approach on marijuana use, even for humanitarian purposes. Let us hope, for the sake of Cathy Jordan and many more like her, that People United for Medical Marijuana and other advocacy groups are successful in getting the question on the ballot in 2014. Should such a referendum pass in the state, Florida's infirm citizens might finally earn some respite from debilitating disease. % LETTERS TO THE EDITOR The Sarasota News Leader welcomes letters to the editor from its readers. Letters should be no more than 300 words in length, and include the name, street address and telephone number of the writer. Letters should be emailed to Letters@SarasotaNewsLeader.com, with "Letter to the Editor" in the subject line. Letters actually printed will be selected based on space available, subject matter and other factors. We reserve the right to edit any letters submitted for length, grammar, spelling, etc. All letters submitted become the property of The Sarasota News Leader.

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