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Carlton: Despite potty mouth, lawyer gets it right on medical marijuana

Lawyer John Morgan, who has led and funded the campaign to legalize medical marijuana, is right when he says that if voters care about the issue, they need to vote.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Lawyer John Morgan, who has led and funded the campaign to legalize medical marijuana, is right when he says that if voters care about the issue, they need to vote.

At the least, we should credit lawyer John "For the People" Morgan with knowing his audience in his recent and notable pitch to legalize medical marijuana.

There he was, that familiar round face from those TV commercials and billboards you see everywhere, live at the microphone at a rowdy Lakeland night spot after a debate with Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. The reported venue: The Boots 'N Buckles Saloon.

Drink in hand, Morgan held forth to a rowdy, loud crowd in his Lexington drawl on the importance of getting out the yes-vote — except his speech was peppered with colorful, sometimes multisyllabic expletives you would not likely hear at a League of Women Voters rally. An audience member in overalls pumped his tattooed forearm in agreement, all caught on what appeared to be cellphone video destined for YouTube.

Given the issue of medical marijuana, it was no surprise to hear the hue and cry after. Those opposed pointed to Morgan's salty-talk soliloquy as proof that passing this has less to do with compassion for the ailing and more to do with pot for everyone.

Lost in that argument, though, is the moment in which Morgan quieted the crowd and spoke of his paralyzed brother, and how marijuana helped his pain. (Though it did not bolster medical marijuana's nobler purpose that night when someone kept hollering from the audience, "Where's the cocaine?")

Pure political theater, Florida style. But within that not-so-pretty video is an important point: If you care about medical marijuana, apathy will not get the job done.

A Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/UF Bob Graham Center poll revealed this week shows plenty of Sunshine State voters still aren't sure about a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in the November election.

The language on the ballot for the proposed Amendment 2 says we're voting on allowing the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating conditions as determined by a licensed Florida doctor. It needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.

And according to that poll last month of 814 Floridians considered likely to vote, 56.7 percent said yes, 24.4 percent said no, and a surprising 17 percent said they hadn't thought much about it. And these are the likely voters.

By now, anyone paying any attention has heard argument from both sides. It's compassionate. No, it's dangerous.

One group suggested marijuana could be the new date-rape drug — illustrated with a picture of a young man hugging a young woman with his apparent weapon, marijuana-laced cookies tucked into the back pocket of his jeans.

On the other side, a study of states that allow medical marijuana suggests it reduces narcotic painkiller overdoses.

The big argument against it: Allowing medical marijuana is a slippery slope to more recreational drug use, a guise to legalize pot smoking.

But to a lot of us, what's sounding loudest is the question of empathy, of alleviating suffering for people who are ill or dealing with chemotherapy, who say that it eases pain and increases appetites. That it helps.

Maybe John Morgan's performance that night stumping for medical marijuana was inglorious. But to paraphrase Mr. For the People, if you care about this, vote.

Carlton: Despite potty mouth, lawyer gets it right on medical marijuana 09/04/14 [Last modified: Thursday, September 4, 2014 7:38pm]
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