In addition to Morgan, the panel of guests included medical marijuana opponent Dr. Kevin Sabet of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida College of Medicine and Charlie Brown, a city councilman from Denver, CO. Host Carson Cooper led the discussion that touched on, among other topics, the pros of and possible fallout from legalizing and regulating medical marijuana and the dangers of FDA-backed use of prescription drugs like OxyContin. The panel also discussed discrepancies between state and federal marijuana laws and the rift medical cannabis has created among American voters.
Morgan, who was live in studio for the discussion, touched on, among other subjects, why a trial attorney in Orlando would get involved with United For Care and back a polarizing issue such as medical marijuana.
“Well, there’s really nothing in it for me,” Morgan told Cooper. “I believe that this is an area of what I call political philanthropy, where you see tens of thousands of people suffering for no reason and you think, ‘What could I do to make a difference?’”
Cooper later brought up Morgan’s personal experience of seeing medicinal marijuana help his father more than 20 decades ago as he lost his battle with esophageal cancer and COPD, as well as his brother, Tim, who was battling neck cancer.
“He was debilitated, he was anxious, he had zero appetite, he was nauseated,” Morgan remembered of his father. Ramon Morgan, who John has previously described as “the most anti-drug guy in the world,” was able to “lead his last days with some dignity and some peace once he turned to medical marijuana,” Morgan said.
Dr. Sabet expressed his disagreement with the proposed medical marijuana legalization amendment in Florida. He fears that a “pill mill effect” will be created due to the number of dispensaries that would pop up should the law be passed in 2014. Though Sabet challenged his stance on the issue by saying the medical marijuana issue should only be handled by federal agencies like the American Medical Association and the FDA, Morgan spoke up on behalf of voters who support action sooner rather than later.
“What are we going to do, wait another 30 years for FDA approval while [medicinal marijuana] is sitting out there in your own backyard?” Morgan asked.
Brown, whose state has been dealing with the effects of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana for some time, expressed his disfavor for going the “initiative route” with the proposed amendment. He believes that adding an amendment would “muddy” Florida’s constitution as it did Colorado’s. Morgan countered, saying that if Florida’s House and Senate won’t do anything, the state’s voters and United For Care’s petition will.
“The reason we’ve had to go the initiative route is there were bills put before the Florida House and Florida Senate that couldn’t even get testimony, couldn’t even get one meeting where someone could explain the benefits,” Morgan answered. “And so there was a frustration from victims who are suffering.”
And what about fears that marijuana use will become rampant in Florida should the medical cannabis amendment be passed?
“Here’s the thing, once this is passed—and it’s going to be passed—the Florida house, the Florida Senate and our governor, who are all very conservative bodies led by republicans, are going to regulate this,” Morgan said. “This is not going to be a deal where people are going to do whatever they way to do. Just because this passes does not mean it’s going to be a free for all.”
To those who allege there’s an ulterior motive for Morgan’s support of the legalization of medical marijuana as a push for attorney Charlie Crist’s speculative gubernatorial run next year, Morgan says for himself and those the plant would help, politics have nothing to do with it.
“One thing we know about [patients with] chronic illness and terminal illness, they don’t pick parties,” Morgan said. “When you are at that last stage of death, you’re not thinking about politics. It has to do with what I’ve seen up close and personal. I know it works. I know tens of thousands of people today would benefit, millions tomorrow.”
The full discussion on the legalization of medical marijuana can be streamed on WUSF’s website.
To join campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, please sign United For Care and People United for Medical Marijuana’s online petition.