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  1. Florida Politics

Doctor tells Rotary Club that marijuana is not medicinal

TAMPA — If Floridians vote to legalize medical marijuana on Nov. 4, pill mill-style pot shops and increased use of the drug won't be far behind, a prominent local doctor told a crowd of Rotary Club members Wednesday.

Dr. Madelyn Butler warned the Rotary Club of Ybor City, as she declared in a commercial against Amendment 2, that "smoked marijuana is not medicine."

"The opposition talks about true compassion," Butler said. "To me, as a physician, true compassion is being honest with patients and giving them the right treatment at the right time, and a treatment that is based in science, not based in anecdote."

Meanwhile, lawyer John Morgan continues his statewide tour with the pro-amendment group United for Care, rallying voters with stories of family members who found relief by using the drug.

The amendment needs to garner at least 60 percent of the vote to pass.

"It's an option for doctors like Dr. Butler, not one that they are under any obligation to exercise," said Ben Pollara, United for Care's campaign manager. "For these people, marijuana is not anecdotal. It's what gives them relief and keeps them alive."

Butler, past president of the Florida Medical Association and founder of the Woman's Group, a Tampa obstetrics and gynecological group, appears in a 30-second spot for the Drug Free Florida Committee.

"I'm a doctor, this is my prescription pad, and you won't need it to legally buy pot under Amendment 2," Butler says in the commercial, for which she volunteered. "Amendment 2 is a trick."

She echoed that message Wednesday, calling the amendment vague and riddled with loopholes. The amendment permits marijuana recommendations for health conditions "for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks."

She quoted studies about marijuana's harmful effects, such as carcinogens and its capability of damaging parts of the brain that deal with motivation. Fifteen percent of people who use it become addicted because of their genetic predisposition, she said.

The club's leader thanked Butler for highlighting a side of the issue he said is heard too rarely.

"She approached it from a purely scientific path," said president Kevin Burns. "There's nothing you can dispute about what she said."

He called the issue's underlying politics "disturbing." Critics have said Morgan's aim is to drive Democratic turnout to the polls, which would help elect Charlie Crist as governor. Morgan dismisses that claim.

Retired member Ron Federspiel, 72, criticized the amendment's wording. "It's too loosely written," he said. "It's a very, very scary thing to put into the Florida Constitution."

Member Ernesto Romero, 38, said legalizing medical marijuana would "create chaos."

"The facts say it's not a medicine," he said. "Period."

Contact Claire McNeill at cmcneill@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3339. Follow @clairemcneill.

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