Medical marijuana vote should be a no-brainer

When I was in pain — at times quite debilitating — from four breast-cancer related surgeries, I wished Florida had medical marijuana because narcotics make me sick.

The highly addictive drugs my doctors prescribed made me nauseous and lethargic but didn’t relieve my pain.

Research shows medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for pain that, unlike narcotics, has no known lethal dose. And the drug relieves the nausea and vomiting that cancer patients suffer from chemotherapy.

That is one of several reasons I voted yes on Florida’s Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana.

I trust Mother Nature more than Big Pharma. And more than the Florida Sheriff’s Association, which has a vested interest in keeping marijuana illegal, namely the millions Florida law enforcement agencies take in every year seizing assets.

FSA President Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County said the sheriff’s have an “obligation to educate our constituents and the people we’ve sworn to protect,” but he offers misinformation instead of facts. As do the TV ads sponsored by opponents of medical marijuana.

One of the false claims that Judd and the group No on 2 have made is that teenagers will be able to get medical marijuana. Not true. Florida law requires that doctors obtain consent from a parent or guardian before treating a minor — and that includes recommending medical pot.

When Judd’s department busted two marijuana grow houses this summer he tried to tie the illicit operation to what would be the legally regulated enterprises Amendment 2 would allow if it passes tomorrow.

“No wonder there are efforts to legalize marijuana in the state of Florida,” he said. “There are greedy people who want a piece of this without taking the risk of committing a criminal act.”

He doesn’t mention that his department gets to keep 85 percent of the value of cash and property they seize in drug busts, even when there’s no conviction.

No wonder there are efforts to keep marijuana illegal in Florida. There are greedy people who want to keep their piece of this cash cow.

What Judd and the other fear mongers won’t tell you is that a recent study by Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found states that legalized medical marijuana have fewer deaths from opioids like OxyCotin, Percocet and Vicodin — all of which doctors prescribed for me — than states without medical marijuana.

On average, the 13 states with legalized medical marijuana have nearly 25 percent fewer opioid overdoses. Researchers say the results suggest that individuals in states with medical marijuana choose weed to manage their pain instead of opioids.

Florida had more than 2,000 prescription drug-related deaths in 2012, including 735 caused by oxycodone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an interim report on drug deaths during the first half of 2013, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement noted prescription drugs “continued to be found more often than illicit drugs, both as the cause of death and present at death.”

When my mother was in a Palm Beach County hospital five years ago facing the amputation of her second leg, she lost her appetite and a considerable amount of weight. Doctors prescribed Marinol, synthetic THC, the main ingredient in marijuana. The hope was that it would give her the munchies and she’d eat. A joint would’ve been more effective.

Her appetite didn’t improve in the least. Fake THC doesn’t have the therapeutic properties of the natural cannabis plant.

Marinol is also more psychoactive than real marijuana, so patients experience more adverse effects.

Still, Florida made it easier several years ago for doctors to prescribe Marinol, moving it from a Schedule II to a Schedule III drug. Meanwhile, marijuana remains in the most restrictive category, Schedule I, along with heroin.

How does that make sense?

If Florida is going to have sensible drug policies, voters will have to make it happen.

Legalizing medical marijuana is more than compassionate. It could save a significant number of lives. That should be a no brainer.

Source: Sun Sentinel

Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson is behind 85 percent of Florida’s anti-pot campaign

Floridians will decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical use in their state next week and, whatever the outcome, two men will deserve most of the credit (or blame) for bankrolling the fight.

The single largest contributor on either side of the fight over Amendment 2, which grants patients with “debilitating diseases” access to medical marijuana, is billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who, new campaign finance filings show, added $1 million to the $4 million he’s already spent in support of the campaign to defeat the measure. Adelson, the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands and America’s 12th richest person, is responsible for 85 percent of the $5.8 million raised by Drug Free Florida, the organization leading the charge against the measure and headed by former Reagan drug czar Carlton Turner. For Adelson, that amount of spending is roughly equivalent to a person worth $1 million writing a $157 campaign contribution check.

The man largely behind the yes campaign is personal injury lawyer John Morgan, who mostly through his law firm has contributed more than half of the $7.6 million raised by People United for Medical Marijuana. Morgan has toured the state and participated in debates to advocate for the measure, which he says he supports so people like his brother Tim Morgan, a quadriplegic, can get legal access to marijuana for pain relief.

Because of Adelson’s outsized influence, only about 15 percent of the money raised by the no campaign has come from within the state. In contrast, about 91 percent of the money raised by the yes campaign was raised in-state. Nineteen out of every 20 contributors to People United for Medical Marijuana listed a Florida home address. A review of campaign finance data shows about 80 individuals or organizations have contributed to the no campaign, while roughly 5,600 have donated to the yes campaign. (Note: some may be double-counted due to typos or slight differences in how their names were entered.)

While the results of more than a dozen polls compiled by Ballotpedia and conducted over the last year have all shown support for the measure outweighing opposition, Amendment 2 must receive 60 percent of the vote next Tuesday to pass.

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

“Caffeine intoxication” became official in the medical community when the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” known as DSM-5, added the diagnosis last year.

So do cappuccino lovers need to worry about limiting their consumption?

One expert, Matthew Johnson, associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, explains how caffeine works in the body and when to cut back.

Caffeine works by blocking adenosine, a neuromodulator in the brain that puts the brakes on excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. “Caffeine allows these stimulating chemicals to flow, which can have a rousing effect, even at very low doses,” says Dr. Johnson, a psychopharmacologist who studies the influence of drugs on behavior and mood.

Some people will get edgy from a weak cup of tea. For others, a double espresso is required to get them into the shower in the morning.

Most coffee drinkers are familiar with at least some symptoms of overindulging—nervousness, excitement, insomnia, rambling thoughts. But a large majority of people who consume caffeine don’t experience severe consequences, Dr. Johnson says.

There are some case reports of students experiencing major anxiety after drinking a dozen cups of coffee, Dr. Johnson says. But overdosing would be difficult, “unless folks took multiple caffeine pills or drank many cans of energy drinks” such as Red Bull.

It is possible for a person to die from too much caffeine, “but that would mean about 14,000 milligrams, or around 140 8-ounce cups of coffee in one day,” Dr. Johnson says. Consuming that much would be difficult because of coffee’s self-limiting nature. “One cup makes you feel good and alert, but five cups may make you feel like your stomach is cramping,” he says. “You feel wired and you wouldn’t typically be able to go overboard.”

While clinicians may observe benefits and risks of caffeine intake, the effects are still being debated in academic circles, Dr. Johnson says. “The evidence that unfiltered coffee increases LDL cholesterol levels is convincing,” he says, referring to the “bad” type of cholesterol. “But it’s the mortality studies that count the most,” he says.

One study suggests mortality benefits at up to six cups of coffee a day, Dr. Johnson says. Another suggested mortality risks in people under 55 who drink more than four cups a day. As a result, “I would be hesitant to say that we’ve reached any final answer,” he says.

Current research into depression has looked closely at glutamate, one of the neurotransmitters affected by caffeine, Dr. Johnson says. “In a recent study, those who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee had fewer depressive symptoms, and the opposite was true for those who lowered their intake,” he says. That doesn’t mean depressed patients would benefit from a steady diet of triple lattes. “If a patient is depressed and predisposed to panic attacks, for example, caffeine might make the condition worse,” he says.

The most convincing evidence indicates you’re probably not at risk for major side effects if you consume up to about four 8-ounce cups of filtered coffee, or around 400mg, early in the day, Dr. Johnson says. “If you’re drinking under four cups a day and not having any side effects, then you’re probably OK,” he says.

Source: Coffee & Bean (Part of the TwinStar Media Network)