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Florida Seniors Among Medical Marijuana’s Biggest Supporters

Florida's senior citizens have emerged as surprising supporters of Amendment 2.

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By Victoria Kim

07/10/14

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This November, Floridians will decide whether to legalize the medical use of marijuana in the Sunshine State. As both sides of the debate gear up for election day, a seemingly unexpected demographic has revealed itself as one of legalization’s biggest supporters—seniors.

Many senior citizens favor the initiative, called the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, or Amendment 2. “What we’re hearing from older voters is not a lot different from the electorate as a whole,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United For Care, which landed the issue on the ballot. “For the most part, it’s not a controversial topic…If their doctor recommends a particular treatment plan, whether it’s a medication regimen, a new diet, exercise, yoga or medical marijuana, they should be able to follow their doctor’s orders without being treated like a criminal,” he said.

Some seniors prefer marijuana to narcotic painkillers. Angie Wilt, 65, of Canaveral Groves, would rather use marijuana to alleviate her husband’s shoulder and back pain. “It would be so nice to have the option of giving him medical marijuana on an as-needed basis, instead of the narcotic pain meds he takes,” she said. Her husband suffered a massive stroke in 2009 that affected his right side.

Another supporter of Amendment 2, 57-year-old Mary Greene, was anti-marijuana all her life until she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 10 years ago. She lives in constant pain but does not want to be heavily medicated.

Other supporters of the initiative, like Joan Crutcher, 60, of Melbourne Beach, realized marijuana is not the “horrid gateway drug” of childhood fear mongering. They support any kind of legal relief for people with a terminal illness or in serious, long-term pain.

Amendment 2’s opposition includes the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Medical Association, as well as the state’s own Gov. Rick Scott. “There are many people who think marijuana relieves pain. Marijuana is not an analgesic. You can get more pain relief from aspirin than marijuana, if you’re talking about it in that sense,” said John Anderson, 87, of Cocoa Beach. Anderson is a former chairman of the Brevard GOP and a retired nurse anesthetist. He claimed most medical marijuana advocates “have no idea about the pharmacology or the pharmaceutical-therapeutic dynamics of any drug, whether it’s aspirin or some fancy beta blocker.”

About 84% of Florida voters who support the initiative are older than 65, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted this spring. Among all voters, support was at 88%. Among voters 50- to 64-years-old, 62% admitted smoking marijuana, more than any other demographic.

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