Should Florida legalize medical marijuana? - WFLA News Channel 8

Should Florida legalize medical marijuana?

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

The debate about legalizing marijuana packed a hall at the University of Tampa Monday night.

Aaron Houston, the Executive Director of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy, based in Washington D.C. helped back legalization in Colorado and Washington state and spoke about why states like Florida should legalize pot.

"Clearly parts of the law have already taken effect [in Colorado and Washington] and the sky has not fallen," Houston said. "Drug cartels get 70 percent of their profits from marijuana sales alone. That's a staggering figure made possible by the fact that marijuana is the only minimally processed agricultural commodity in the World that's illegal and so really bad people make a whole lot of money from it."

"We believe the drug war has failed and part of that has been the prohibition of marijuana."

But Dr. Kevin Sabet, of Project Smart Approaches to Marijuana, opposes legalization yet feels lawmakers and caretakers should look at a different approach.

"You increase education, you refer to people to treatment instead of jail ... maybe people need an intervention instead of treatment if they're early in their marijuana usage," Sabet said.

He fears people will profit off of legalized pot.

"We are learning the tragic effects of big tobacco every single day when we have half a million people die from tobacco," he said. "That's not an accident. That's because there's an industry behind it, there's an industry that thrives off addiction; we need to make sure that doesn't happen with marijuana."

Florida State Senator Jeff Clemens' recent push to introduce a bill that would legalize medical marijuana was a topic as well.

"I believe - and science has shown - the marijuana plant has medical value ... but [in] non-smoked form," Sabet said. "Take components of that plant and deliver it in a safe way like a pill, a patch ... and oral mouth spray. We don't tell people to rip off willow bark off a tree and chew that. We tell them to take Aspirin."

He argues different growers in every state do something different with it.

"That doesn't seem to follow the hundred-year example of the FDA we have...where you go through proper clinical trials and clearly do it medically," Sabet said.

But Houston says government could combat that with the proper channels that are in place for tobacco and alcohol.

"It's just like regulating beer and wine," he said. "We would control it better."

The dozens of students who watched the debate left with various beliefs.

"Obviously - it concerns people of all different age groups," said 18 year-old Andrew Stefanowicz. "I think if marijuana was legalized to an extent - it would greatly reduce the amount of people incarcerated and it would save our country a lot of money."

Michelle Speaker, 19, disagreed.

"I've personally seen the effects of it and have seen what it's done to people and I don't like to see people get hurt or do stupid things from a drug that should never be here in the first place," she said.

 

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