Pushing for medical marijuana, Part 1

CREATED Nov 17, 2013

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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA -- You could be voting to legalize medical marijuana next November.
The group United for Care is pushing to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot.
Already legal in 20 states, along with Washington DC, some say, it's time for the movement to make its way south.

4 In Your Corner's Liza Fernandez brings you part one of this special report.

Nancy has multiple sclerosis. "If my brain tells my right leg to move, it ain't gonna move. If I wiggle my toes, some of them don't move and some of them do," she explains.

She's struggled with the nervous system disease for 25 years. "I was getting off the bus in Boston. And I fell off the bus," she remembers. And this tough New Englander wasn't staying down.

"I went into a wheel chair quite rapidly. When it first hit me, I said I ain't staying in this thing. ...And working hard and everything I finally got out of it after a few years," Nancy tells us.

She says she's smoked marijuana every day for the last 8 years, since moving to Southwest Florida.

Liza: "How does it help you?"
Nancy: "How's it help me? Move! I can move. If I don't smoke it, you should see me walk. I'm so stiff. And I can't move."

Nancy shows us how it works for her.

"Much better," she says as she exhales the marijuana smoke. "Once I get a little high, you'll see me walk, and I'll walk better I'll. Probably walk without the walker. I just don't feel like I'm breaking the law." Ans she does seem to walk easier.

While many researchers acknowledge anecdotal evidence, like Nancy's, they say further study is needed. But more and more doctors are warming up to weed, like the head of the ER at prominent Southwest Florida hospital who told 4 In Your Corner he sees patients everyday who would benefit from medical marijuana.

Heavy hitting orlando super attorney john morgan piping up about pot. The man behind likely the most recognizable voice on the Florida airwaves began running ads this summer.

"Medical marijuana has been proven to give our loved ones the relief they need," you've likely heard on the radio.

Morgan is not only lending his name and voice, but he's also giving up the cash... about $3 million bucks to help fund the "United for Care" campaign.

"It's worth me writing a big check if I have to," say Morgan.

For him, it's personal. He says marijuana helped his father toward the end of his battle with cancer.

"It was a game-changer for him in terms of comfort and appetite," adds Morgan.

Campaign Manager Ben Pollara says it's an idea whose time has come.

"It's not a very controversial issue in the minds of most voters," says Pollara. 

And it seems many Florida voters agree. A statewide survey, done by the campaign, in January of likely voters shows about 70% of those polled are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

"Democrats, republicans, conservatives, liberals, independents, all support medical marijuana by pretty healthy margins. And they're certainly some very conservative pockets of the state that may not be as supportive, but there is no where that is wholly negative toward medical marijuana," adds Pollara. 

Liza: "Really, not even in Southwest Florida?
Pollara: "Numbers were not as strong, but they were still there."

"If we make medical marijuana available, there will be people who will be able to access it with no real medical or legitimate reason who will then use it as a drug of choice or recreation. And it will then become more widespread in our communities," warns Kevin Lewis, a respected substance-abuse expert in Florida and CEO of Salus Care in Fort Myers. "In essence, I think that's a bad idea because if we drive down the age of onset to younger people, it's not helpful at that time of their development," sats Lewis.

Nancy is also against the recreational use of marijuana.

You don't need people walking around stoned all day. You want to smoke just enough to get mellow and take the pain away. And you can still function," says Nancy.

Function is what Nancy says pot helps her do... and better than any pill.

Nancy: "I got 2 pills that if I don't take, its OK because if I'm smoking, it does for me what those 2 pills are doing."

Liza: "What 2 pills are those?"

Nancy: "They're muscle relaxers."

"Why shouldn't you be able to use it if it's something that's helping a person? Not just MS but a lot of other conditions people have. Right here in Florida we have a lot of elderly people. It wold work great for them and their arthritis and stuff," Nancy says with a smile.

And it is that older generation who could hold the key to legalizing medical marijuana in Florida. That's what part two of or special report addresses. 

 For a look at the petition, click here: