Medical marijuana advocates pack Florida Department of Health meeting, speak out for use

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – People packed into a meeting room at the University of South Florida on Wednesday morning, sitting on the floor, others lining the walls.  They waited for a brief chance to address a panel from the Florida Department of Health about the use of medical marijuana in the state.

A number of people with serious medical conditions stood in the room for more than two hours to address the meeting.

“I’m a cancer survivor,” said Denise Houston, as she spoke to tell the group about her husband’s current medical condition.

“My doctor of 30 years supports cannabis use for my husband, and he’s waiting on what you do,” she said.

The meeting at USF is just one of several meetings happening across the state on the issue of medical marijuana.

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A woman who identified herself as Tracy told the panel the drug is allowing her to survive.

“I was diagnosed with leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia. They were going to put a food tube [in], a feeding tube in my stomach, because I couldn’t stop losing weight. I couldn’t stop getting sick. I couldn’t stop any of my side effects. Three days, I gained three pounds,” said Tracy.

Dr. Christopher Newcomb was one of several medical doctors who expressed frustration over not being able to prescribe medical marijuana now, despite voter approval in November of Amendment 2.

“I’m seeing patients in the hospital who are dying in front of me, who I’m certified to prescribe cannabis, but I cannot do it. My hands are tied. There is nothing more angering, frustrating, upsetting for me and my patients,” he said.

Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter came to speak on behalf of the Florida Police Chief’s Association, bringing another concern to the meeting.

“We just want to ensure that law enforcement can easily identify the patients and caregivers who are medically qualified to posses medical marijuana,” said Slaughter, who expressed a desire to see a statewide photo I.D. for anyone who is approved to receive medical marijuana.

Dr. David Berger told the group he is concerned that a state board of medicine would be involved in a decision about who he can prescribe the drug to.

“The board of medicine first of all, they’ve never been in a consultation with me and my patient. They may not know anything about that patient and they may not know anything about that patient’s condition,” said Berger.

The Florida Legislature will take up the issue during this session.

At least two bills have already been submitted on the issue.

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