Medical Marijuana Rally in St. Pete - WFLA News Channel 8

Medical Marijuana Rally in St. Pete

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The Amsterdam restaurant on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg just opened about eight months ago, but co-owners John Cullen and Zoie Torres already have hosted a signature event. The "Legalize It" petition party was held in conjunction with United for Care to help legalize medical marijuana. Cullen and Torres worked a combined 18 years in the medical field, so they felt qualified to speak in favor of the hot button topic.

We've seen the differences between typical standardized drugs, oxycontin, vicodin, things like that and the harmful nature of it", Cullen said. "So, we feel this is a better alternative for patients with certain diseases like epilepsy, anything that has any type of chronic pain and terminal diseases and so forth"

Bryan Schlindwein was one of the many who dropped by The Amsterdam during the 12-hour street party, which also included several live bands and merchants who support the cause. Over 20 years ago, Schlindwein was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 18 years old and give 30 days to live. An experimental drug saved his life and he said medical marijuana helps improve his quality of life.

"It helps in a lot of ways. Just by being able to deal with certain things in life", Schlindwein said. "Being able to speak, being out in public. My hearing is affected. There's many things cancer has taken from me. And it's not until you're aware of a problem that you look for answers to help you find relief from that problem".

As of right now, 20 states along with the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. California was the first to do so in 1996, with Illinois and New Hampshire joining the group in 2013. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed 82 percent of Florida voters favor legalizing medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor.

Ellen Snelling is on the other side of the coin. A board member of the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance, Snelling and the other 100 members of the coalition aren't totally buying the medical-only pot usage.

"I think the average person thinks there might be a person with cancer or someone near the end of their life that might need some marijuana to help them feel better, to relieve a little pain", Snelling said. "But if you look in California, where it's been legalized for quite some time, the average user is a young man between the ages of 20 and 30. And they don't have a chronic illness".

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