Medicinal marijuana is getting a surprising supporter but makes complete sense.
On January 3 this year, Amendment 2 went into effect regarding the use of medical marijuana for debilitating medical conditions in Florida. The state failed to set rules for this legislation, which supporters argue were too restrictive. Now, it is up to the Florida Department of Health to set the regulations, which it will do by July 3, 2017.
Two of the rules proposed in Amendment 2 that its supporters argue against are the waiting period of 90 days and the use of word “debilitating” in its wording.
To explain both and other issues, a few people from the general public spoke in front of the health department during February 6-8 Public Workshop on Medical Marijuana Implementation.
There was one person whose words stood out among everyone else, brought some to tears, and others to a standing applause in support.
These words were by a retired judge Doug Bench, who used to send people to jail for marijuana until his own health issue made him see this herb in a different light.
“I put 311 people in jail for marijuana offenses. I was wrong,” he began his short but powerful speech.
Two years ago Doug got diagnosed with COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It’s a progressive lung disease, making it difficult to breathe, and which can lead to fatal complications. The mainstream medical treatments available for this condition are pharmaceutical drugs, which only manage the symptoms, while the disease progresses. The medications can also cause side effects and even account for E.R. visits (not to mention serious mineral deficiencies over time).
Doug’s life expectancy using pharmaceuticals would be up to 30 months. But luckily for him, his wife researched potential treatment options and came across medical marijuana, and went to Colorado to purchase cannabis oil.
Doug was hesitant to try it and fought it tooth and nail. But he admitted that his wife was persistent enough to threaten to leave him if he did not try it.
“It was a tough decision. I hated marijuana. I hated the use of marijuana and the violation of the law. But I had no choice if I wanted to live. I had to violate Florida law,” he said.
After trying it, he was amazed at how just one drop a night improved his condition. And today he is fighting for anyone’s right to use it too – legally for medical reasons.
“Our government suppressed this information from us for 70 years. I am now an advocate for medical marijuana,” he spoke to the health board, “You are horribly underestimating the number of people who are going to need medical marijuana in this state. For this reason, my wife and I are going to educate every person in this state about it.”
Marijuana helps COPD because it clears the mucous from the lungs, and restores healthy breathing. But it’s definitely not the only condition marijuana can help with. It can also provide relief for people struggling with:
- Alzheimer’s (slows down its progression)
- Arthritis (relieves discomfort)
- Cancer: prevents spreading
- Crohn’s Disease
- Hepatitis C (eases side effects of treatment)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Glaucoma: relieves the pressure inside the eye
- Lung issues after tobacco use
- Lupus (lessens symptoms)
- Multiple sclerosis (eases pain)
- Muscle spasms
- Parkinson’s Disease (helps with tremors)
- Seizures related to different conditions
- Stroke (protects the brain)
All the patients with the conditions above can benefit from medical marijuana. And while Amendment 2 is a step forward, it has two issues that may prevent people from getting the help they need: a 90 day waiting period and word “debilitating” in the amendment.
The 90-day rule means patients need to wait 90 days before they can receive medical cannabis. That is too many days of unnecessary suffering and may be due to what Doug explains as a part of the human condition.
“Human nature [is] we procrastinate. When you are ill, you put it off. You don’t wanna hear what the doctor says. And when you finally go [to get the treatment] – you need it now, not 90 days from now,” he said.
Doug also has a huge concern about the word “debilitating” used to describe a condition for which a patient can receive medical cannabis under Amendment 2.
Debilitating under the definition means a condition that greatly affects a person’s ability to perform day to day tasks. Under that definition, Doug said his condition would not be applicable. Many other people with serious conditions, even in pain, also often can do all tasks, while struggling with symptoms. One word placed into this legislation crosses out these people – they wouldn’t be able to receive any help.
Doug finishes his emotional plea to the Florida Department of Health Public Workshops on Medical Marijuana Implementation with this:
“[After] listening to everybody’s stories and what they need… you gotta give it to them. You can’t base decisions based on money and the lobbyists. You gotta base your decision on people’s need. Make this decision from your heart, not your wallet.”
Watch Judge Doug Bench’s full speech: