By Steven Peters — Patients, doctors, legislators and supporters of medical marijuana rallied at Florida’s capital yesterday when an estimated 300+ attendees gathered for the Grand Rally in Tally in Tallahassee.
Robert Platshorn who was the lead organizer of the rally joined with NORML of Florida, the Law Office of Bill Wohlsifer PA, Florida Can, L.E.A.P, Patients Out of Time, American Cannabis Nurses Association, Veterans for Compassionate Care, Veterans for Cannabis Access NORML of Florida Vets and other organizations to support a comprehensive medical marijuana bill.
Senator Clemens, Neill Franklin, Patients out of Time, Ellen Bukstel, Cathy Jordan and many others spoke through the bitter cold at the rally, which had to be moved indoors because of a wind hazard.
Because of the recent medical marijuana bills being introduced from various legislators, and pressure from their constituents, and perhaps because Florida lawmakers would rather see a bill come before a committee rather than have one on the ballot in 2016, a companion medical marijuana bill was introduced in the Florida House to pair with Senate Bill 528. Representative Greg Steube (R-District 73) filed House Bill 683, which is a much more restrictive companion bill than the SB 528 bill that was filed by Senator Brandes in the Florida Senate a couple of weeks ago.
Rep. Steube is coming up for re-election in 2016 and it appears that he may want to get ahead of the curb by adopting the (FSH) Florida Sheriff’s Association‘s points about how medical marijuana should be distributed and used. The FSH’s laundry list of points made it clear that they do not support United For Care‘s comprehensive and fair proposed bill, nor Senator Clemens bill that was submitted into the legislature. The FSH’s lengthy list of restrictions leave no doubt that their draft of medical marijuana guidelines for what they deem is acceptable or not, goes far beyond the scope of what their job entails. Indeed, it is the Sheriff’s job to enforce laws, not to create them.
There are many patients and supporters and patients of medical marijuana who don’t approve of Rep. Steube’s restrictive bill. They feel it is very limited in what illnesses the patient must have to be approved for medical marijuana.
Steube’s Bill would legalize medical cannabis only in non-smokable forms and only allow its use for HIV, AIDS, Cancer MS, ALS epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease Crohn’s disease, or a terminal illness where the patient has a year or less to live if the disease “if the disease runs it’s normal course.”
Representative Steube stated, “There’s not a single health organization that says smoking anything is healthy for you,” — “So if this is medicine, it needs to be non-smokable.”
Rep. Steube’s assertions are contrary to what medical professionals and a myriad of research studies claim, that in fact smoking marijuana has no ill effects on the lungs or body as a whole.
Others who have studied the link between marijuana and lung cancer point to an often overlooked difference between marijuana and tobacco — certain compounds in marijuana have been shown to have anti-cancer effects.
“This may be the reason why marijuana smokers are unlikely to develop lung cancer”, explains Donald P. Tashkin, MD, a lung specialist from the University of California.
In fact, published in 2006, one of Dr. Tashkin’s own studies found that while heavy tobacco smokers experienced up to a 20-fold increase in lung cancer risk, the most frequent users of cannabis were no more likely to develop lung cancer than the average person.
Despite Rep. Steube’s claims about smoked marijuana, there is no doubt that the Senate bill filed in January by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg is a much better piece of proposed legislation.
Sen. Jeff Clemens, who was in attendance at the rally was one of the guest speakers and stated, “we can all work to get these bills improved before and after they are passed.”
Bills which are introduced receive many changes prior to the final draft of the proposed bill. Much of the current bills that are submitted will no doubt change in committee, as is the case for almost all bills, especially those receiving as much attention as these.
When bills go to committee, and if they do not move further, these bills may in fact die in committee, which will allow medical marijuana on the ballot for the presidential election in 2016.
It appears that with the number of medical marijuana bills proposed, it’s anyone’s guess as to which bill will be the ‘magic bullet’ that makes everyone happy. Certainly having public input from medical marijuana supporters must be considered for any bill to move forward in the legislature, though at this point it’s uncertain that any legislators heard the ralliers’ pleas at the event.
With 58% of the vote in favor of last years medical marijuana bill that was on the ballot in Florida, this time around, we’ll have to wait and see if in fact lawmakers in Tallahassee can put the will of The People and compassion for patients before politics, and consider a comprehensive and fair medical marijuana bill drafted for all patients, not just a select few who would benefit from its use.
If these bills fail in the legislature, Ben Pollara and John Morgan of United For Care have pledged to get their proposed bill on the ballot in 2016.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. We welcome your input.
Photos from the rally, below.