Final 2014 Debate Addressed Medical Marijuana

With less than two weeks to go before Floridians will vote on a controversial marijuana initiative, NBC News hosted a state-wide debate on medical marijuana Wednesday night in Orlando and it came down to an argument over the health benefits versus the perceived ambiguous wording of the amendment.

NBC correspondent Peter Alexander moderated the debate over Amendment 2 and wasted no time by asking Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, why are 23 other states allow medicinal marijuana use, why are they wrong?

“Not this amendment. Not an amendment that says anybody involved in this business is completely immune from civil and criminal liability,” said Sheriff Gualtieri. “Not one that says all you have to be, to be a caregiver and distribute to five different people its 21-years-old. One that says you can be a convicted drug trafficker and give it to a 16-year-old without their parents’ knowledge; so not this amendment.”

Gualtieri was very critical of the wording of the amendment and said it was riddled with loopholes which would eventually open up the state to have recreational use of marijuana.

Under the new amendment, to obtain marijuana, a patient would have to get a doctor's certification of their condition, which in turn would qualify them for a patient ID card they can use at licensed dispensaries.

Orlando-area lawyer John Morgan, who has helped finance the push for medicinal marijuana, responded saying comparing powerful prescription opioids to medicinal marijuana.

“If I know your number and I’ve got your address, I can go to Walgreens right now. I can get you Oxycontin right now as a non-caregiver,” Morgan countered.

NBC, which organized the debate, brought in two doctors who agreed medicinal marijuana has benefits, but disagreed how far the law should go. Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos argued against any smokeable form of marijuana, while Dr. Clifford Selsky argued in favor of Amendment 2.

“I’m not against Senate Bill 1030 or Charlotte’s Web or low THC non-smokeable forms of marijuana,” said Dr. Haridopolos. “I agree there are medical benefits, a lot of physicians do. But overwhelmingly, we do not support smokeable marijuana.”

“It’s not the end all be all,” Dr. Selsky replied. “There’s still going to be children with intractable seizures that can be helped by chemicals in the whole plant.”

Selsky’s point was that while Charlotte’s Web may work for some, other patients may need more potent forms of marijuana to help ease their symptoms.

Like all statewide ballot measures, Amendment 2 will require 60 percent support in the Nov. 4 election to pass. In the end, Morgan doubts Amendment 2 will garner the support needed to pass.

“If young people get up and vote, it’ll pass,” Morgan said. “If young people stay home, it won’t.”

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