Nearly 160 people crowded into Pugh Hall on Tuesday to hear a panel of four experts discuss medical marijuana.
“The Pot Predicament: Is Marijuana Good Medicine?” panel turned into a heated debate as Sheriff Sadie Darnell and former Florida House Speaker and Amendment 2 writer John Mills squared off over what some call controversial language in the amendment. They were accompanied by Paul Doering, UF Department of Pharmacotherapy and Translational Research professor, and Jeffery Lahman, a retired U.S. Air Force officer
Darnell and Mills were visibly irritated by each other’s viewpoints on stage.
“This amendment is completely unnecessary,” Darnell said. “It’s costly and misleading, and it will be making money off the poor and addicted.”
Darnell’s enthusiasm was met with mixed emotions.
According to Darnell, under a state statute, an individual may receive medical marijuana if his or her doctor is able to obtain a legal note from the government to provide marijuana for medicinal purposes to the patient.
Lahman, who become a proponent of medicinal marijuana after using it in Arizona to moderate chronic pain, seemed to perk up when he heard this.
“I have been to five doctors in the state of Florida and not one of them was able to prescribe the only medication that has worked for me,” he said.
Darnell said the five doctors had decided, in their expert opinions, marijuana wasn’t needed for Lahman’s ailments. The audience groaned.
Mills said the “misleading” language Darnell was referring to was already reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court.
“You would agree with the decision of the court wouldn’t you?,” he said with scorn.
Darnell said the most concerning loophole was the “caregiver loophole,” which allows anyone “21 and up without an outstanding warrant” to receive a caregiver license to obtain marijuana.
“What is to stop drug dealers and convicted felons from being care givers?” she said.
Mills, rolling his eyes, insisted the idea was preposterous.
“No drug dealer is going to follow all the necessary procedures, give out the personal information required and get their picture taken to legally obtain six ounces of marijuana,” he said.
Darnell shook her head in clear disapproval.
The moderator almost lost control of the crowd as Darnell and Mills went back and forth about what the language really means.
One man jumped up and tried to interject a question directly to the sheriff. He was told all questions had to be directed either by card or via Twitter.
The discussion was mainly dominated by the back and forth between Darnell and Mills on the language of the Amendment 2 and whether it was really required, with the other two panelists contributing only a few times during the entire forum.
Weighing in on the scientific side of the debate, Doering said his main concern was “letting the genie out of the bottle” with the passage of Amendment 2.
“More research is needed before doctors can prescribe consistent dosages for specific ailments,” he said.
Doering said there is potential for the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but because it is a Schedule 1 drug, a drug with high risk of abuse with no current recognized medicinal purpose, it is difficult to conduct the necessary research.
“It doesn’t seem right that marijuana and heroin meet in the same classification according to the law,” he said.
As the panel came to a close, Mills’ final statement drew out cheers and applause from the crowd.
“People don’t die from marijuana,” he said. “They die from oxycodone and other dangerous pain killers.”
Yet some of the spectators said they were left wanting more from the entire panel.
Dylan Ramos said Mills and Darnell had a monopoly on the time and the sheriff seemed to be a little closed-minded on the subject.
“It’s true that doctors can obtain a note to legally acquire marijuana,” he said. “But no doctor is going to risk their medical license if something does, in fact, go wrong.”
Bryce Henson, another attendee, said the issues were over-simplified. Both sides stuck to their typical arguments and didn’t really do much informing, he said.
“I would have liked to have heard more from all the panelists,” he said. “It seemed like the sheriff and Mr. Mills were doing mostly a back and forth.”