Debbie Wasserman Schultz: on the Wrong Side of Marijuana Issues

I’ve recently noticed that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the
Democratic National Committee and a Florida representative, stands in
opposition to medical-marijuana adoption in Florida, but 58 percent of
the state voted in support of a 2014 medical-marijuana bill. Florida
requires a 60-percent majority to pass the bill, so widespread medical
marijuana is not legal yet in this state. Even though I know medical
marijuana can treat a wide range of conditions, Florida only permits
limited use for cancer patients and those with epilepsy and Lou Gehrig’s
disease. These medical marijuana users are restricted to a single strain
called Charlotte’s Web, which is administered as a low-THC cannabis oil.
The issue goes up for a vote again in November 2016, according to the
Observer
,
but Schultz is taking measures to prevent the bill from passing again.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Position on Marijuana

Schultz holds a position that marijuana dispensaries over-prescribe and
over-treat patients. She used the term "pill mills" to describe
dispensaries during her opposition to the 2014 Florida bill. She has a
strong belief that legalizing "mind-altering" substances such as
marijuana lead to further drug use. Sun Times
reports

Schultz is worried about a "huge heroin epidemic" in Florida, but I’ve
found no evidence supporting this claim. She says she felt bothered by
the drug culture she encountered where she grew up in Long Island.
However, I discovered that Schultz grew up in an affluent neighborhood
in the region, so the basis of her life experience is uncertain.

Still, she avoided questions asking why she was not opposed to
opiate-painkiller prescriptions on the same grounds. I see the gateway
theory frequently used by opponents of medical marijuana, but science
has debunked this position since 1999. A [Congress
report](https://www.nap.edu/read/6376/chapter/2# 2) found no link between
marijuana use and harder drug use. However, there is a strong link
between opiate-painkiller prescriptions and moving into harder drugs.
These painkillers can lead to addiction, many negative medical side
effects and a tendency to try drugs such as heroin.

Schultz receives significant campaign contributions from alcohol
companies, according to High
Times
,
such as Bacardi USA and Southern Wine and Spirits. Alcohol and tobacco
companies are strongly opposed to marijuana legalization and
decriminalization, based on perceived revenue loss. These contributors
may influence Schultz’s position on medical marijuana. She stands in
opposition to many other Democrats on this matter, which has led to some
confusion about her motives.

The Benefits of Medical Marijuana

Medical-marijuana access can bring many benefits to Florida residents if
the 2016 bill gains approval.
HelloMD conducted
a survey to find out how medical-marijuana patients benefited from
legalization. The typical conditions treated with marijuana include
anxiety,
stress,
insomnia
and chronic
pain
, but
many conditions respond well to this treatment method. In fact, 84
percent of
patients
reported
improvements in their symptoms and had limited negative side effects.
Patients mentioned beneficial side effects, such as better moods and
sleep, compared to using other treatment options.

Other medications used to treat these conditions often come with many
detrimental side effects, such as nausea, dizziness, mood swings and
constipation. Non-medical marijuana patients sometimes face a situation
where they’re taking a primary medication to treat a problem; then they
take supplementary medication to manage the many side effects. Medical
marijuana’s lack of negative side effects helps avoid this situation and
helps patients achieve positive medical outcomes.

One of the biggest benefits of treating chronic pain and other pain
conditions with medical marijuana is the decrease of pain-killer related
deaths. Opiate painkiller overdoses kill 44 people
daily
, but
cannabis has not caused any overdose-related deaths.

Ways Florida Voters Can Support Medical Marijuana

The next medical-marijuana bill goes on the Florida ballot in November
2016 as Amendment 2. I recommend Florida voters take several steps to
grow support for the medical-marijuana amendment so that it passes into
law. Opponents of the amendment such as Schultz put considerable effort
into preventing medical-marijuana adoption, but here are some ways that
voters can get more attention and support:

Showing up to vote for Amendment 2 is one of the most important ways to
support medical marijuana in Florida. Voter turnout may be higher than
average due to the Senate race, so every vote counts. Another way
Florida voters can help is by contributing to medical-marijuana
campaigns helping to build awareness on the benefits and advantages of
legalization. United For Care is one
such organization building support for Amendment two in Florida.

Florida voters with the time to volunteer can help these organizations
with more hands-on methods like collecting petitions, getting on the
phone to build support and encourage voting, staffing medical-marijuana
awareness events, doing door-to-door canvassing or assisting in
administrative work. Voters can also write to their representatives to
find out their medical-marijuana positions and learn whether they’re for
or against the measure.

Medical marijuana treats many conditions that currently require
medication with opiates or prescriptions with many negative side
effects. More states are legalizing marijuana and taking advantage of
the benefits it brings to patients. Florida has another chance to pass a
medical-marijuana amendment in 2016, but it requires voter effort to
overcome opposition by Schultz and others standing against the bill.
She’s on the wrong side of the issue, but I know the popular vote can
change the medical-marijuana landscape in this state.

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