Two of Florida’s loudest voices with opposing viewpoints on Amendment 2 — a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana — made their cases Thursday night in Lakeland.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and Orlando attorney John Morgan particpated in a panel debating the issue in front of about 700 people in the auditorium of Lakeland’s Harrison School for the Arts.
“This is the moment of our lifetime in Florida to do something,” Morgan said. “We don’t have to rely on our politicians. We can just rely on ourselves to go out and, for God’s sake, vote, and vote for compassion, and when you do it, do it for the people.”
Judd questioned the language used in the amendment, which specifies debilitating medical conditions for which marijuana could be recommended — such as cancer and AIDS — and adds the phrase “or other conditions” for which a doctor sees potential benefits.
Judd said the amendment will allow Floridians to acquire marijuana for a headache or back pain.
Judd is president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, which opposes the proposal. He lamented the amendment’s “multiple loopholes that’s going to create a de facto legalization” of recreational marijuana.
Morgan said he saw how marijuana helped his father, who was dying of cancer, and his brother, who has faced chronic pain since an accident left him paralyzed.
Many in the audience wore T-shirts or carried signs that labeled them as supporters or opponents of Amendment 2. The audience included families with children who have ailments that medical marijuana may benefit.
The panel also included Jeffrey Reddout, a Winter Haven psychologist; Sergio Seoane, a Lakeland physician; Jessica Spencer, statewide coalition director for the Vote No on 2 campaign; and Irvin Rosenfeld, a Fort Lauderdale stockbroker with a rare bone disorder who receives marijuana from the federal government through a discontinued medical program.
Spencer noted that the amendment is more loosely written than laws in other states that have legalized medical marijuana.
“Please remember, a ‘yes’ vote on this is forever,” Spencer said. “ ‘No’ is ‘Not right now.’ ”
Amendment 2 asks whether the state should allow the use of marijuana by a person diagnosed with a “debilitating medical condition.” It defines that as cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV, AIDS, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease “or other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”
The amendment, which requires 60 percent approval by voters, will be on the ballot in November’s general election.
The panel was organized by The Ledger. Ledger Editor Lenore Devore served as moderator for the 90-minute discussion.