JUST SAY NOW! 82% of Voters in Florida back Medical Marijuana

Michael Budzynski is pictured with his mother Marilyn at home in Eustis, Fl. on Friday, September 6, 2013. The 20 year old suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome, a devastating form of epilepsy, that will eventually kill him . Michael’s parents believe his pain and suffering would greatly improve with the use of medical marijuana. (Tom Benitez, Orlando Sentinel)

 

82 Percent of Voters in Florida Back Medical Marijuana
Almost everyone in the state of Florida supports the idea of medical marijuana. A new Quinnipiac poll found an incredible 82 percent of Florida voters think using marijuana for medical purposes should be legal with a doctor’s prescription. Only 16 percent oppose this change.
Medical marijuana has overwhelming support among every generation, partisan leaning, and ethnic group. Even 79 percent of senior citizens back medical marijuana and they tend to be the group least supportive of any marijuana reforms.

This strong support is good news because there is currently an effort underway to get a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana on the 2014 ballot. If the campaign succeeds it will need to be approved by at least 60 percent off voters to be adopted, which should be achievable based on this poll

The poll also found a narrow plurality support legalizing recreational cannabis, with 48 percent in support of legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and 48 percent opposed. On this issue there is a large generational divide. It has majority support of voters under the age of 65 but senior citizens oppose it 32-60. It is only a matter of time before a clear majority of the state backs full legalization.

Proponents say legalizing medical marijuana in Florida could help those suffering.
For 20-year-old Michael Budzynski, the good days are when he doesn't suffer the terrible seizures that ruined his mind, leaving him with the mental capacity of an 18-month-old.

On those days, the Eustis man isn't enduring migraines, and his restless leg isn't thrashing. His mother, Marilyn, sees glimpses of the bright, fearless little boy she knew before he was devastated by Dravet syndrome, a severe and incurable form of epilepsy that targets children.
She is convinced that medical marijuana — used successfully on 40 other people nationwide with the same syndrome — could give her son more good days. It's banned in Florida, but that could change if a statewide ballot initiative to make it legal succeeds.

"It gives me new hope that I haven't had in a long time. Our Michael has deteriorated to a miserable state," Marilyn Budzynski said. "We should not be denying people who could benefit from a chance at a better quality of life."

Medical marijuana has been legalized in 20 states and the District of Columbia for a wide range of medical conditions — cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS and Lou Gehrig's disease, as well as epilepsy.

Although it's illegal under federal law, Justice Department officials have said that prosecuting medical-marijuana cases in states where it's legal is not a priority.

Orlando trial attorney John Morgan is championing the drive to make it legal in Florida through a state system that would license treatment centers and register patients. The petition drive, run by People United for Medical Marijuana, needs nearly 700,000 verified signatures by February to make it onto the November 2014 ballot. The group already has more than 100,000 signatures, enough to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review of the ballot language.

Opponents counter that medical marijuana could pave the way for recreational use and further drug abuse.

Morgan said medical marijuana helps his brother, Tim, a quadriplegic who would otherwise take eight Percocets a day to relieve severe spasms. He saw how it eased the pain for his father, who died 25 years ago this week from cancer and emphysema.

"I know it works, and I know if it became legal in Florida, it would help tens of thousands of people," Morgan said. "Why would we deny someone who is terminally ill the most compassion and the most mercy at the end of their lives?"

Anecdotal evidence and a growing body of studies show medical benefits from marijuana as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory drug that is less addictive and has fewer side effects than other pain medications already available by prescription.

However, opponents of legalization question the medical benefits of marijuana. The Florida Medical Association is opposed to medical marijuana and advises doctors to refrain from prescribing it unless its use is approved in the future by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Florida Police Chiefs Association also remains opposed to legalization. Such a change could open opportunities for abuse, addiction and crimes related to marijuana use, the association contends.

"As a career law-enforcement officer, I do not want to have to deal with the effects that impaired individuals cause to other people," said Philip Thorne, chief of police in the Panhandle town of Springfield and president of the police-chiefs organization. "It creates all kind of issues associated with marijuana in general.

"Everybody and their brother would abuse the system to get marijuana."

Florida proponents want to set up a tightly controlled system to regulate the use of medical marijuana, hoping not to repeat problems with California's law, which is more lax.

The Florida referendum would require special ID cards for patients who receive physician's prescriptions to buy the drug through state-licensed treatment centers. The proposal would not allow people to grow their own.

"They don't want California, where with a wink and a nod, a witch doctor could give out a prescription," Morgan said. "People are OK with it, but they want it highly regulated."

One of the biggest arguments against marijuana legalization is its potential as a "gateway" drug, in which marijuana users progress to more addictive illegal drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.

But Morgan strongly disputes that characterization.

"For people with cancer, the nausea is debilitating, and the pills they give you don't work. But marijuana works," he said. "The only gateway drug for these people is the morphine they will receive at hospice."

Mary Anne Meskis, executive director of the Dravet Syndrome Foundation, said the concern about medical marijuana as a gateway drug also doesn't apply to patients such as Michael Budzynski who suffer from extreme seizures.

"Our kids will never lead a normal life," Meskis said. "They will never be out and about trying recreational drugs"
BY MARC CAPUTO
MIAMIHERALD

If a medical marijuana initiative makes Florida’s ballot next year, it could pass with an astonishing 82 percent of the vote, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday that finds voters also favor outright legalization as well.

Support for the proposed constitutional amendment is strong among voters of every political stripe, age and income level, with independents lending the most support: 88 percent, the poll shows.

The overall 82-16 percent support for medical marijuana is the biggest to date. The previous high-point for Florida approval was about 70 percent in a poll taken earlier this year by the medical-marijuana advocacy group, People United for Medical Marijuana.

There are some differences in wording between the initiative and the Quinnipiac poll; the amendment says doctors can "recommend" marijuana, the poll asks if a doctor should be able to "prescribe" it.

Still, medical marijuana is clearly popular. And marijuana legalization is becoming more-liked as well, albeit narrowly.

Nearly half of Florida voters favor it — 48 percent — while 46 percent oppose pot legalization for personal use. That’s within the margin of error, but it’s a leading indicator of a shift in public opinion. Support for legalization is again strongest among independents (57-37 percent), and then Democrats (55-39 percent).

But Republicans are opposed 30-64 percent. Contrast that with GOP voter support for medical marijuana is solid: 70-26 percent.

One early poll and analysis from People United found that medical-marijuana was so popular that it could alter the course of the governor’s race.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott opposes medical marijuana; Democrats Charlie Crist and Nan Rich support the initiative, which is funded and led by Crist’s employer, trial attorney John Morgan, a Democratic donor. A major Florida Republican donor, former ambassador Mel Sembler, is opposing the measure through his Drug Free America Foundation.

In the race for governor, the Quinnipiac poll found Scott trailed Crist poll by 7 percentage points, 40-47 percent. That’s an improvement for Scott, however, compared to the last Quinnipiac Poll in June, when the governor trailed by 10 percentage points.

Since Quinnipiac’s last poll in June, Crist has lost some standing among independent voters. One possible reason: As soon as the former governor announced he was running for office, Scott began attacking him in television ads that began running a full year before the election.

As for medical marijuana’s fate, the proposed amendment — which takes 60 percent voter approval to pass in Florida — appears to be on an easy path to victory at the moment. But only if it makes the ballot.

The Florida legislative leaders and the state’s Attorney General want the state Supreme Court to block the measure from the ballot, saying the ballot summary is misleading and that it violates a rule that limits the scope of a constitutional amendment to a single subject. People United for Medical Marijuana, the advocacy group pushing the measure, say the criticisms are false.

“This poll shows yet again that Floridians overwhelmingly support a compassionate medical marijuana policy in Florida, despite the continued opposition of out-of-touch, Tallahassee politicians like Pam Bondi,” said Ben Pollara, treasurer for People United.

The Florida Supreme Court will hear the matter next month.

Even if it passes constitutional muster, People United needs to collect 683,149 verified voter signatures by February. People United has gathered 200,000 so far, of which more than 110,000 had been verified last month.

In November, Miami Beach voters approved a non-binding straw poll calling for medical marijuana by 64 percent.

A number of critics are starting to more actively denounce the measure in Florida.

Grady Judd, Polk County’s sheriff and the head of the Florida Sheriffs Association, likened marijuana to more dangerous drugs and pointed criticisms about the effectiveness of marijuana as medicine from the Florida Medical Association, American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

“Lawmakers and law enforcement have worked tirelessly to get Florida’s crime rate to its current 42-year low,” Judd said in a statement. “Let’s not roll back that progress by legalizing a drug with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

HIV Cure: Medical Cannabis Or ‘Weed’ Explored To Help Stop HIV Infection Using THC Component; Laws Prevent Clinical Trials On Humans

International Business Times 2/17/2014

Marijuana or "weed" is now among the several ingredients that researchers are looking into to helping stop further spread of HIV infection.

According to hundreds of marijuana researchers, an active ingredient on "weeds" known as THC pierced HIV-like virus in monkeys called RIV.

Marijuana To Prevent HIV?

Medical cannabis is used as an appetite stimulant, antiemetic, antispasmodic and sometimes as analgesic to help treat chronic, non-cancerous pain, vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy. In some cases, it is also used to aid treating symptoms of AIDS patients. Researchers at the International Cannabinoid Research Conference are now digging up all the data they can get to track useful ingredients that may help to stop HIV infection. One ingredient known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can pierce to the monkey version of HIV called RIV.

Dr. Patricia Molina may not get medical cannabis into clinical trials for humans as the U.S. law considers marijuana as schedule I substance due to its addictive and adverse effects. Medically, "weeds" have been found beneficial in treating several diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis. But proving an illegal drug like marijuana to stop a global pandemic threat on humans without ever testing it on them is impossible.

"It was ground-breaking. Everyone was in awe," Amanda Reiman, California policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance told the Daily Beast.

Ground-Breaking Results

Dr. Molina and her team at the Louisiana State University tested rhesus monkeys. For 17 months, they found something interesting after the team administered high concentration of THC from 4-to 6-year-old male rhesus monkeys who were RIV positive twice a day and examining intestinal tissues before and after the chronic THC exposure revealed dramatic decrease in immune tissue damage in the stomach plus significant population increase of normal cells in the same region.

The study showed the working properties of THC by targeting CB2 receptors in the brain, which reacts to therapeutic aspects such as reducing swelling and relieving pain instead of affecting CB1 receptors that has been linked to THC psychoactive qualities.

Also, THC targeting CB2 receptors build new and healthy bacterial cells in the intestines which block the virus from leaking through the cell walls. Making the body work hard to keep the bad stuff inside the intestines while retaining good stuff outside.

In other terms, THC on CB2 receptors restored cells in the intestinal walls which apparently targeted and killed by HIV.

Medical Cannabis

Under the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the following symptoms and conditions have been noted under Appendix IV of the November 2002 report, "Descriptions of Allowable Conditions under State Medical Marijuana Laws".

1. Alzheimer's disease

2. Anorexia

3. HIV/AIDS

4. Arthritis

5. Cancer

6. Crohn's dieases

7. Glaucoma

8. Epilepsy

9. Migraine

10. Multiple sclerosis

Adverse effects of marijuana use include high addiction rate known as dependence, irreversible cognitive impairment, psychosis, schizophrenia, depressive disorder, cancer, endocrine abnormalities and respiratory problems.

OBAMA WILL BE PUSHED BY LAWYERS TO RECLASSIFY MARIJUANA

The federal government places pot in the same category as heroin and ecstasy as a schedule 1 controlled substance – a drug with high potential for abuse but no accepted medical use.


In a letter, signed on Wednesday by 17 Democrats and one Republican, to the President, lawmakers cite Obama's recent comments that he sees smoking marijuana as no more dangerous than drinking alcohol.

"As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol," Obama recently told The New Yorker.

The lawmakers said marijuana's current classification "makes no sense," pointing to wasted law enforcement resources under "harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws."

"You said that you don't believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol: a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less dangerous 'in terms of impact on the individual consumer.' This is true," the letter says.

"Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I, the strictest classification, along with heroin and LSD. This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs."

Voters in two states, Colorado and Washington, opted last November through ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana use. Another 18, along with the District of Columbia, allow some legal pot use, primarily for medicinal purposes.

The federal government said it would not challenge state laws legalizing marijuana. The President told The New Yorker it was important for those states' laws to move forward, calling them "experiments," but the White House has said the President remains opposed to a nationwide decriminalization of marijuana.

Attorney General Eric Holder can remove marijuana from its classification after an independent scientific review. But Holder has said that his preference was for Congress to act, underscoring that federal enforcement effort would focus on preventing marijuana use in minors.

"What is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress," Obama said in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.

Holder also said recently that local business selling marijuana should have access to the American banking system, and that Justice Department is working with the Treasury to come up with rules providing an avenue for banks to handle legal revenue.

Uruguay’s president nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for legalizing marijuana


The president of Uruguay has been nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. According to his advocates, José “Pepe” Mujica's much talked-about marijuana legalization is in fact "a tool for peace and understanding."

For the second year in a row, the Drugs Peace Institute, which has supported Mujica’s marijuana legalization drive since 2012, insisting that the consumption of marijuana should be protected as a human right, has endorsed his candidacy, along with members of Mujica's leftwing political party the Frente Amplio, the PlantaTuPlanta (Collective of Uruguayan growers) and the Latin American Coalition of Cannabis Activists (CLAC).

Despite an avalanche of global criticism, in late December Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize the production and sale of the popular herbal drug. Under the new law, which comes into full effect in early April, Uruguayans will have several options to gain access to it.

The Drugs Peace Institute said that Mujica’s stand against the UN-led prohibition of mind-altering substances is a "symbol of a hand outstretched, of a new era in a divided world."

The institute pointed out that, unlike coca-based products that reinforce the ego and individual self-esteem, marijuana has the "peculiar quality of diminishing the consumer’s ego." It pointed out that so far only one government leader has succeeded in challenging the prohibition: "the World’s Poorest President” - Mujica - dubbed so due to his modest lifestyle.

"Jose Mujica once said that he’s been looking for god but [hasn’t] found him yet. By legalizing marijuana and opening the doors of spiritual happiness to the young, he might not have found the god of other nations…, but he certainly has followed in the footsteps of Jesus when he said ‘Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these,’" the NGO noted.

“I’m very thankful to these people for honoring me,” Uruguay’s president responded in Havana, as quoted by La Nación Argentine daily. “We are only proposing the right to try another path because the path of repression doesn’t work. We don’t know if we’ll succeed. We ask for support, scientific spirit and to understand that no addiction is a good thing. But our efforts go beyond marijuana - we're taking aim at the drug traffic," Uruguay's 78-year-old guerrilla-turned president said.

The leader of the South American state has championed the controversial legislation as a way to snuff out the illegal drugs trade in Uruguay, noting that both Washington and Colorado had legalized marijuana. He signed the bill into law on December 25. The Uruguayan government has until April 9 to finalize the regulations that will govern the sale and cultivation of marijuana.

Marijuana aficionados will be given carte blanche to grow cannabis. However, the law forbids having more than six hives per person. There will be a cap on the amount that can be bought every month, initially set at 40 grams. Residents aged over 18 will have to register in a special nationwide database that keeps track of how much marijuana was purchased in the past month. The law will forbid foreigners to buy it, and in an attempt to undercut the illegal market price of $1.40, the market price for the drug will be set at a dollar a gram.

Late last month, Uruguay's National Cannabis Federation launched special training courses on the cultivation of the popular plant. The training courses are also put forward as one of the measures taken by the authorities to control the trafficking and consumption of marijuana.

The international community lashed out at Uruguay's leader, with the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board chief, Raymond Yans, saying that Uruguay "knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed treaty." Mr Yans argued in a statement that claims that the law would help reduce crime were based on "rather precarious and unsubstantiated assumptions."

Uruguay's president made it into the top 10 finalists for the award last year. However, the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Mujica has been president of Uruguay since 2010. He was a member of an armed political group inspired by the Cuban revolution, the Tupamaros, in the 1960s and ‘70s. After the military coup in 1973, during the dictatorship, he spent 14 years in prison. This included being confined to the bottom of a well for more than two years.

When democracy was restored in 1985, Mujica was freed under an amnesty law. He was Minister of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and a senator afterwards. When he became president, he pledged to give away 90 percent of his monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs. Much to everybody's surprise, the unpretentious leader has also shunned the grandeur of the presidential residence in favor of his humble farmhouse.

POT…. “HOLDERS” PROBLEM

BLOOMBERG 2/3/2014

Twenty states plus the District of Columbia now allow sales of medicinal marijuana, allowing pot prescriptions to treat pretty much any malady, from a headache to a hangnail. Colorado and Washington have legalized the drug for recreational use, too.

Yet federal law still prohibits the possession, use and sale of marijuana for any reason. This dichotomy explains why some banks are reluctant to accept the large amounts of cash that pot purveyors generate — even if the cash is legal under state law.

To redress this, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has promised to issue guidelines to make it easier for marijuana sellers who are operating in accordance with their state laws to use the banking system. Large amounts of cash “just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited,” Holder mused, “is something that would worry me, from a law enforcement perspective.”

The fact is, Holder encouraged those bundles of unbanked cash to be assembled in the first place. Last year, perhaps in a nod to opinion polls showing that a majority of Americans favor marijuana legalization, he said the Justice Department wouldn’t seek to overturn the Colorado and Washington measures. Nor, he said, would Washington interfere with the 20 states that allow medicinal marijuana. Instead, federal drug agencies and prosecutors would leave it to local authorities to enforce marijuana laws.

All of which raises the question: When did it become acceptable for the country’s top law-enforcement officer to decide which federal statutes to enforce and which to ignore? Even those who agree with the broader policy of marijuana legalization should be left uneasy by open defiance of the rule of law.

Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has high potential for abuse, serves no medical purpose and isn’t safe even under a doctor’s supervision. As recently as 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, even in states that allow medical marijuana sales, sellers and users can be prosecuted.

Whether or not a law is outmoded, unpopular or overtaken by cultural change, the attorney general doesn’t have the authority to ignore it altogether in half the country. To do so is wrong, and has practical consequences: Holder’s pronouncement caused a surge of cash to flow from the black-market weed business into the regular economy. His guidelines presumably will make it possible for buyers to use credit and debit cards now — and for banks to accept those transactions — without fear of reprisal. But some banks won’t go along.

Banks are subject to federal banking laws, including the anti-money-laundering statute, which discourages large deposits of cash by requiring reams of paperwork to document where it came from and where it went. When regulators don’t enforce the rules, lawmakers haul them in, Holder’s blind eye notwithstanding.

What’s more, in states that allow marijuana sales, a whole new pot economy has grown up, complete with cannapreneurs, growers, equipment makers, transporters and even private-equity financiers. The National Cannabis Industry Association estimates marijuana sales will exceed $2 billion in 2014 and $10 billion by 2019. Nevertheless, a future president could wipe the industry out by regarding the federal prohibition as wise and strictly enforcing the law.

If that happens, the marijuana industry and thousands of employees would be put out of work or forced back underground. Banks would again refuse to accept their cash, dispensaries would have to unplug their ATMs, and Visa and MasterCard would refuse to process marijuana transactions. Sales of the drug would continue, of course, but they would again go untaxed and unregulated.

At any rate, guidelines from Justice wouldn’t be enforceable in court, and therefore wouldn’t provide the legal defense bank lawyers must have before advising their clients there is a safe harbor against prosecution.

It’s time Congress recognized reality. With 22 states openly in defiance of the federal statute, lawmakers should decide whether to keep the national ban or turn the question of marijuana decriminalization over to the states. Congress could, for example, withdraw marijuana from the Schedule 1 list, recognize that it has useful medical applications and let the states decide whether and where to allow its use.

What shouldn’t be an option is for the Justice Department to look the other way.