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Why I'm Voting to Legalize Medical Marijuana in Florida

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Editor’s note: Florida’s Right to Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, seeks to legalize medical marijuana use for people with debilitating diseases, expanding on the state’s current Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, which allowed limited cannabis access to qualified patients.

I was diagnosed with dystonia in 2010. Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that is caused by misfiring brain cells. I have the type called cervical dystonia. It affects the muscles in my neck and shoulders by causing extreme muscle spasms and tremors causing abnormal postures, limited range of motion and debilitating pain.

The usual course of treatment is Botox injections in the affected muscles to paralyze them. And then there are the oral medications. There is no one good medication that works for everyone. Since my diagnosis, I have been prescribed and tried Flexeril, Baclofen, Clonzepam, Zanaflex, Topomax, Artane and various other oral medications.

Meds that help dystonia usually make me sleepy, and with some, side effects affected how I functioned. I just take the Clonzepam and Baclofen now, no more than a couple of times a week. I’ve never taken any of the meds I’ve been prescribed on a daily basis or I believe I would have developed a dependency by now.

And here’s another thing. I’m a special needs mom. I can’t afford to be sleepy when I am watching my son who has Down syndrome. I’m am in pain every single day of my life and it can be incapacitating.

I also use essential oils, do yoga and swim in a heated therapy pool as often as I can. All these things help somewhat but they don’t completely get rid of the spasms and tremor.

Medical marijuana isn’t about the high for me.

I’ve been in recovery for 30 years. I don’t want to smoke it and I don’t want a high. There are forms of medical marijuana available that are high in CBD and low in THC that are medicinal without the high. Other dystonia patients in states where it’s legal have told me that it helps with pain and spasm. That being said, some patients need the THC and that means the whole plant.

This issue is more than just about me. This is also about future pain management for another family member who has neurofibromatosis if he needs it. This is about the showing compassion for the thousands of people in our communities. Children who have seizures. Cancer patients who are dealing with the effects of chemotherapy. Multiple sclerosis, ALS and countless others.

I believe we need solutions for pain management. 

Many of us have exhausted holistic and pharmaceutical pain relief treatments and are still in pain. Our lives are a daily struggle. Medical marijuana could help. We want to work and show up for life, but the pain of our disorders or diseases may keep us on the sidelines.

Widespread drug abuse is already happening at our neighborhood drug and liquor stores. Some people have become unintentionally addicted to opioid pain relief after taking it as prescribed from their doctor. Some doctors are all too happy to push the latest pill that the sales rep dropped off at their office. Every drug has side effects, and many have the potential for abuse and addiction.

I believe personal responsibility dictates if we are going to ethically use prescription drugs and alcohol and keep them out of the reach of our children, and the law is there to cover those who don’t. Fear and hyperbole should not used to keep medical marijuana from struggling people who need it. I’m not advocating for recreational use.

I believe people with chronic illness in Florida deserve to be able to legally access a natural and effective pain relief alternative. We shouldn’t have to consider moving to Colorado. That’s why I’m voting yes on Amendment 2 this November.

Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

Originally published: August 4, 2016
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