The dividing lines have been drawn once again in the state of Florida with a controversial issue being put forth in the limelight. There is an initiative in the State Legislature to introduce a bill that will decriminalized and legalized the prescription and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Led by Florida Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, who "is introducing a bill that would put legalizing marijuana for medical purposes up for a statewide vote. Rep. Clemens not only considers himself a full 'decriminalization advocate' but would one day like to see marijuana legalized for all Floridians, but that is not his intention with this first effort. (Brochu 2011)" As expected, there are pros and cons to the endeavors with those against having the upper hand at the moment. The reason being is that marijuana is still a banned and illegal substance considered as a Schedule 1 drug considered to be potentially addictive and with no current medical use.
Nonetheless, the efforts to have marijuana placed as a Schedule 2 drug, that is potentially addictive but with some accepted medical use and subject to regulation, is gaining steam especially since there have been precedents in the last couple of decades. These precedents have to do with the "thirteen states that have taken steps toward legalizing marijuana, including California, Michigan, Nevada, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Alaska (Sammis Law Firm, P.A. 2010)." The District of Columbia also allows marijuana use for medicinal purposes while Delaware, Arizona and New Jersey have recently joined the list of states that legalized medical marijuana; some other states are underway to follow suit.
Following the lead of the other states in legalizing marijuana use for medicinal purpose may seem to be "merely following the bandwagon." However, this is not the case because there are various facts, statistics, proofs, and evidences that point out to the validity and viability of allowing marijuana use not only for medicinal purpose but for a total decriminalization as well. The initial thrust though is to legalize the use thereof as part of the medical interventions and protocols. This is especially critical because of the available research and cases that proved how effective marijuana is in treating some diseases or alleviating the symptoms thereof. "People smoke the drug to alleviate pain, sleep easier and deal with nausea, lack of appetite and mood disorders such as anxiety, stress and depression. Research now suggests that multiple sclerosis could join the growing list of cannabis-treated ailments (Seppa 2010)" as well as Crohn's disease and even some types of cancer. This does not mean that marijuana is a "be all and end all" drug treatment, rather the medicinal value of which cannot be contested due to the results proven in various medical cases and well documented from years of research and actual usage.
Those against legalizing marijuana -- even for medicinal purposes, will of course continue "fighting tooth and nail" because of their wrong perceptions and beliefs. Their two main arguments would be the addictiveness of marijuana and the substance being a "gateway" drug for worst substances. They forget to see the bigger picture especially in terms of abuse of prescription drugs and even alcohol. Prescription drugs are now the biggest cause of drug overdoses in the United States, yet not one death can be traced to pot. The deaths from direct alcohol usage are just as vast and there is no telling how many innocent lives are destroyed by drunk driving. (Jones 2011) These two groups of substances are legal but they have caused and are causing more harm not only to individuals abusing them but those around them. Drunk driving already accounts for the loss of thousands of lives in the United States and yet no efforts have been made at all in banning alcohol. Suicides and homicides have figured a lot in cases where prescription drug users ran amuck due to overdose and abuse.
Those truly against marijuana legalization need only look at the grim statistics on the matter. They will find out that their arguments against marijuana and the dire effects of which are a far cry from what has happened and is happening from the misuse and overuse of legal prescription drugs and alcohol. "There has never been a known case of overdose. The lethal-to-effective ratio is 40,000 to 1. That of aspirin is 10 to 1. A recent study indicated there is no link between smoking marijuana with lung cancer. (People United for Medical Marijuana -- Florida [PUFMM] 2010)" AS to marijuana being a starter or gateway drug to more harmful substances, "there is no evidence supporting this claim. In fact, people start drinking caffeine, smoking cigarettes, and drinking alcohol years before they ever use marijuana (PUFMM 2010)."
The important thing though with regards to legalizing marijuana for medical use is that there are already a number of sick people who can benefit from the legalization. There are over 1.7 million seriously ill people in Florida. They have the right to safe, affordable, and effective medication (PUFMM 2010). Even the former Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, has given her "two cents" worth on the matter when she wrote the following in a March 26, 2004 article titled Myths About Medical Marijuana, published in the Providence Journal (ProCon.org 2011):
The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS -- or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.
The article dates back to 2004 and is already seven years dated and already during that time, there were evidences on the merits of marijuana use not only in multiple sclerosis and cancer cases but even AIDS. With the current technology and modern research facilities at present, more than likely, more benefits can be found with marijuana provided better and more intensive research is done.
On the political milieu, legalization of marijuana for medicinal purpose may be a first step in full decriminalization. In doing so, the government can derive additional revenues via taxation. As what Rep. Clemens stated in an interview with him by a radio station last March 2011: "That creates an industry, and it creates regulation for that industry, and frankly, some tax dollars for the state. (Brochu 2011)" At present, the lion's share of earnings and profits in marijuana trade goes to the illegal sellers and drug pushers. Added to this is that millions if not billions of dollars spent running after, prosecuting and incarcerating marijuana users and pushers. Thus, the losses of the government are multi-fold from loss of revenue to expenditure due to the criminal nature of marijuana usage, possession and trade. "The legalization of pot would be a total win for anyone who is for cutting state and federal budgets, who value smaller government and who wave the flag of getting the government out of personal lives. We could immediately pardon more than a million nonviolent inmates from prisons and in one swift move cut state budgets drastically all across the country. (Jones 2011)" The savings the government, especially the State of Florida derived from decriminalization of marijuana can be put to other uses especially in state educational funding and better social services for the people of Florida.
Indeed, it is high time for Florida to take this matter seriously and initiate a change in the status of marijuana -- first for medicinal use and eventually for full decriminalization. In this case, the adage "vice seen is better than vice unseen" will be apropos since at the moment with…