THE BLOG
07/16/2014 06:11 pm ET Updated Sep 14, 2014

Why I Support Florida's Medical Marijuana Amendment #2: I Care

Recently, I was in line at a grocery store reading my e-mail when another bored shopper, tired of looking at the tabloids for sale, looked over my shoulder and saw "Say Yes to Amendment 2" at the top of a letter from United for Care on my iPhone

"Why the hell should I vote or even care about legal marijuana in Florida?" she asked. "We have enough problems with rampant DUIs and pain pills sold like candy in this damn state. Why should I want to add to the problem?"

"I'm glad you asked," I smiled.

"Are you one of those potheads like in Colorado?" she asked.

"No, I'm just one of those people who care," I replied, and I told her my story and a few others.

I am one of those people who care, in part because I have "skin in the game."

I have a mother who has stage 4 breast cancer, who is not a candidate for chemo or surgery. But that is not stopping her doctors from prescribing a plethora of medications that are making her life possibly more miserable than if she had no treatment at all. She is currently in ICU with a bleeding ulcer and getting transfusions and treatments for helicobacter (a bacteria that causes ulcers). She had been vomiting blood and unable to eat for days before she was brought to the ER. Meanwhile, the cancer spreads.

I have a good friend who has battled prostate cancer but cannot tolerate anesthesia. In the past he went to Asia to get treatment that worked better than anything offered to him in this country. He was in remission for a good long while, but it is back. He is a brilliant man. He knows that there is a treatment in this country that could work, but not in our state.

I have a wife with severe glaucoma. It has already taken a vast majority of her eyesight, and it hits with a severity that makes her grab her head and double over in pain. All the meds that have been offered to her have not been effective, but she knows that there is a treatment out there that does not raise her blood pressure to dangerous levels or have any of the other side effects of what she has been offered.

I have a daughter who has severe migraines that have segued into seizures. The meds she has been given have only slightly decreased her pain, and the anti-seizure meds have given her auditory hallucinations, causing her to take anti-psychotics that reduce her frontal lobe activity, making it impossible for her to work. She can't pay her student loans or cover her rent due to all of the sick time she has had to take off. She knows that there is a treatment that works, that would alleviate her pain and allow her to be the brilliant person she is, clear-headed and able to do great things. But it isn't available here and now.

None of these people that I care about are looking for a buzz. None of them are potheads. They are people in need of a treatment that is older than the oldest currently operating medical institutions in the world.

But not in Florida. Not yet.

John Morgan of the Morgan & Morgan law firm has been accused of promoting the amendment for many things, including trying to get Charlie Crist back in the Governor's Mansion to wanting to make millions growing and selling medical marijuana. The truth is that he saw firsthand how it eased the suffering of his father who was dying of cancer. His brother Tim suffered a crippling accident as a young man that made him a paraplegic with ongoing severely painful muscle spasms. He knows that a cannabinoid extract will ease his brother's unbearable pain and reduce the spasms.

The federal government is still sticking to the 1971 ruling that made marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, which not only makes it illegal, but also prevents research and makes the claim that it has no medicinal value.

The states can use a "compassionate use" clause that allows them to enact laws to get their citizens the medicine they need. These are meds that have already been proven to work on pain, seizures, glaucoma, and MS. They've even been proven to shrink cancerous tumors and have an estimated 70 percent success rate with those in stage 4 cancer.

And that is what Amendment 2 is all about and that is why we should not only care but also vote in favor of its passage.

The Charlotte's Web bill passed this year in the Florida Legislature opened the door a crack to those children with intractable epilepsy, but it won't help anyone else. Darryl Rousson, D-Pinellas, said it on the floor of the Florida House: "We need to send a clear message. A message that we CARE!"

That's why.

Gary Stein, MPH, a native Detroiter, worked for the Centers for Disease Control, landed in the Tampa Bay area to work for the State Tobacco program and is now a health advocate and activist and blogger for the Huffington Post. Column courtesy of Context Florida. It has also been reprinted in a new Florida Blog about all things related to medical marijuana, Politics of Pot