Last February 8, people packed into a meeting room at the University of South Florida, sitting on the ground, others lining the walls. They waited for a short opportunity to address a panel from the Florida Department of Health about using medical marijuana in the state.
Quite a few people who have serious medical conditions stood in the room for more than two hours to address the meeting.
“I’m a cancer survivor,” said Denise Houston, as she discussed to tell the group about her husband’s present medical condition.
“My physician of 30 years supports cannabis use for my husband, and he’s waiting on what you do,” she said.
The assembly at USF is only one of several meetings occurring across the state on the matter of medical marijuana.
A lady who identified herself as Tracy told the panel the drug is enabling her to survive.
“I was diagnosed with leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia. They were planning to place a food tube [in], a feeding tube in my stomach, because I couldn’t stop losing weight. I couldn’t stop getting sick. I couldn’t stop any of my side effects. Three days, I gained three pounds,” said Tracy.
Dr. Christopher Newcomb was one of several medical doctors who expressed frustration over not being able to prescribe medical marijuana now, despite voter approval in November of Amendment 2.
“I’m seeing patients in the hospital who are dying in front of me, who I’m certified to prescribe cannabis, but I cannot do it. My hands are tied. There’s nothing more angering, frustrating, upsetting for me and my patients,” he said.
Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter came to speak on behalf of the Florida Police Chief’s Association, bringing another concern to the assembly.
“We only want to make sure that law enforcement can quickly identify the patients and caregivers who are medically qualified to posses medical marijuana,” said Slaughter, who expressed an urge to see a statewide photo I.D. for anyone who’s approved to receive medical marijuana.
Dr. David Berger told the group he’s concerned that a state board of medicine would be involved in a choice about who he can prescribe the drug to.
“The board of medicine to begin with, they’ve never been in a consultation with me and my patient. They might not understand anything about that patient and they may not know anything about that patient’s condition,” said Berger.
The issue will be taken up by the Florida Legislature during this session. At least two bills have already been submitted on the matter.