It’s Time To Pick Up, Dust Off, and Fight For Patients

In the 72 hours that have elapsed after the Florida Legislature relegated CS/CS/HB 1397 to the graveyard, much as occurred. Stories of Capital intrigue have abounded, complete with what Sunshine State News has called a “very public breakup” of attorney John Morgan and activist Ben Pollara. The “circle of finger pointing” is in full swing.

This is not a time to lay blame. We must move forward.

To begin, we must go back to November 8, 2016. Nearly 6.5 million cast their vote for Amendment 2. The measure passed with a 71.3% majority, a full 11.3 percentage points more than required to pass into law. In this age of constant political division, it is rare to find an issue in which Democrats, Republicans, independents, and Libertarians can agree.

Over the past few weeks, there has been much debate centered around what “we the people voted for” back in November. Listening to politicians like Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) pontificate about how people didn’t vote for cannabis to be smoked or grown is simply a non sequitur argument. What the electorate cast their votes in favor was, in fact, expanded access to cannabis for the sick.

Today, we received word that one of our patients passed away before she had a legally established relationship with Dr. Gordon.

Had she just hung on for another 30 days, she may have been able to ease her suffering at the end. Someone should have told her that before she passed. Better yet, those who are opposed to cannabis should have been made to sit next to her bedside and explained that, while it’s unfortunate she was dying of terminal cancer, the Legislature doesn’t feel Dr. Gordon is qualified to recommend cannabis until 90 days has passed since the first examination.

In the prism of the Florida cannabis fight there exist many different angles. A cottage industry is chomping at the bit to begin cultivating, processing, dispensing, and serving those businesses who do. With so much noise, it is easy to lose sight of the real purpose of the mission – the patients.

In terms of “debilitating illness”, we’ve seen it all. Each day patients suffering from ALS, Parkinson’s, a wide variety of cancers, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s, epilepsy, persistent spasm, muscular sclerosis, post traumatic stress disorder, and a multitude of other illnesses come into our clinic because they desire to begin utilizing cannabis. They come from all walks of life, from construction workers to teachers to doctors and lawyers. As our patient base has continued to grow, our average population age has gotten older (our average patient is 54 years old).

We must not be distracted from the real fight. Whole flower should be available for patients to purchase and smoke if desired. Edibles, tinctures, oils, topicals, transdermal patches, and suppositories should be available. Most importantly, the doctor/patient relationship should be held sacred and physicians should be able to practice without fear of license revocation or criminal charge.

Cannabis is safe and effective, being used for 10,000 years to treat a variety of ills. Cannabis has a therapeutic index of infinity and zero instances of fatality. Cannabis is not a “gateway” drug, and does not result in psychosis for chronic users as the government has long claimed.

We hold the above truths to be self evident, and as a brick and mortar practice with a large and ever growing patient base, our daily perspective is of paramount importance as we fight to craft a better system here in Florida.

As the third most populous state, we have an obligation and an opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of other state mandated programs and create a world class patient-centric medical cannabis program.

Our advocacy and fight must be grounded in scientific fact. The naysayers within the Legislature (in particular Julio Gonzalez, M.D., Ralph Mussulo, M.D., and Cary Pigman, M.D.), would be in a better position to serve their constituents and their patients within their “day job” practices if they’d open their minds and pick up a book. Standing on ceremony in a public forum to pontificate about your social beliefs that cannabis is a “Trojan horse” is an opinion, devoid of any fact. Opinions like those of Dr. Gonzalez are dangerous to patients statewide. When lives are on the line, alternative facts aren’t an option.

We, and many other advocates, are the voices for those who do not have the ability. It is our solemn duty to speak up and speak out vehemently against any obstruction, in any form, that may stand in the way of a person suffering from a chronic illness who wants to utilize cannabis in their treatment protocol.

We must stand together. There are millions counting on us.

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