A group pushing for medical marijuana legalization filed a petition with the state of Florida this week.
According to Florida’s Perscription Drug Monitoring program, nearly a quarter billion doses of prescription pain relievers were dispensed in 2012. These medications include opioids ranging from the powerful – think Oxycontin – to its relatively milder cousins like Vicodin and Talwin. As Florida’s population ages, demands for these pain relievers will likely climb as well. Ben Pollara, spokesman for People United for Medical Marijuana, wants Florida residents managing pain to have marijuana as an option.
“Because it can help people who are suffering, I mean it’s really as simple as that. We get dozens of emails every single day from people who say I’ve been prescribed huge prescriptions for percoset and oxycontin and all these dangerous opiates, and they don’t work nearly as well as a fairly small quantity of marijuana,” Pollara said.
But Calvina Fay, Executive Director of the St. Petersburg Drug Free America Foundation, thinks the matter is simple, too:
“It’s an extremely bad idea for the residents of the state of Florida,” Fay said.
Fay argues medical marijuana clinics would be no better than the pill mills Florida has worked so hard to stop. She says there is no support for medicinal marijuana.
“First of all there’s no science to support taking a toxic weed, rolling it up in paper and smoking it. Smoking is not a safe delivery system of any medication,” Fay said.
On the other hand, proponents counter there is significant scientific support for medical use. And this could be why the argument seems continually mired in stalemate - both sides claiming the superiority of their science. Supporters and detractors are capable of marshaling evidence to support their claims. Wading through the arguments is neither simple nor conclusive.
This confusion is reflected in federal policy. The FDA lists marijuana as a schedule one controlled substance; it’s a category reserved for highly addictive drugs with no medical use. But synthetic drugs mimicking marijuana have been approved for use in the U.S. since 1985.
The debate continues, but in the meantime, Florida’s Secretary of State is working to validate the nearly 700 thousand signatures needed to put the referendum on the ballot.