LAKELAND — Two of the loudest voices in the campaign over Amendment 2 went head-to-head during a debate in Lakeland on Thursday night.
The debate, organized by the Ledger of Lakeland pitted Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who bankrolled the effort to get the medical marijuana measure on the ballot, against Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, the spokesman for the Don't Let Florida Go to Pot coalition.
The amendment, which requires 60 percent approval by voters, will be on the ballot in November's general election.
"This is the moment of our lifetime in Florida to do something," Morgan told the crowd of about 700 at the Harrison School of the Arts auditorium. "We don't have to rely on our politicians. We can just rely on ourselves to go out and, for God's sake, vote, and vote for compassion, and when you do it, do it for the people."
Judd questioned the language used in the amendment, which specifies debilitating medical conditions for which marijuana could be recommended — such as cancer and AIDS — and adds the phrase "or other conditions" for which a doctor sees potential benefits. He said the amendment will allow Floridians to acquire marijuana for a headache or back pain.
The sheriff lamented the amendment's "multiple loopholes that's going to create a de facto legalization" of recreational marijuana.
Morgan says he saw how marijuana helped his father as he was dying of cancer and his brother, who has faced chronic pain since an accident left him paralyzed.
Many in the audience wore T-shirts or carried signs that labeled them as supporters or opponents of Amendment 2.
The audience included families with children who have ailments that medical marijuana may benefit.
Ledger editor Lenore Devore served as moderator for the 90-minute discussion.
The panel also included Reddout; Dr. Sergio Seoane, a Lakeland physician; Jessica Spencer, statewide coalition director for the Vote No on 2 campaign; and Irvin Rosenfeld, a Fort Lauderdale stockbroker with a rare bone disorder who receives marijuana from the federal government through a discontinued medical program.
Morgan said medical marijuana helped his father as he was dying of cancer. And, he said it has helped his brother, who has faced chronic pain from an accident that left him paralyzed.
Spencer noted that the amendment is more loosely written than laws in other states that have legalized medical marijuana.
"Please remember, a 'yes' vote on this is forever," Spencer said. " 'No' is, 'Not right now.' ''