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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Aug. 8, 201710:30 AM EST

The Medical Marijuana Debate: Don’t deprive citizens of treatment

To watch, day after day, a person you love suffer, not be able to eat and have no quality of life because of constant pain, is the worst torture.
by: Belkis Plata, Criminal Defense Attorney

By Belkis Plata

Criminal Defense Attorney

Tragically, I have experienced close family members suffering from debilitating illnesses which ultimately took their lives.

In one instance, my relative’s disease progressed and he was in extreme pain for months. Despite the best efforts of renowned doctors, there were no legal pharmaceuticals available that could alleviate his pain.

To watch, day after day, a person you love suffer, not be able to eat and have no quality of life because of constant pain, is the worst torture. Luckily, he was able to access medical marijuana. 

Although there were edible versions of the cannabinoid available, the terminal illness symptoms did not allow for that method of consumption.

The only method of dosage that could be used was smoking. The use of marijuana did not provide him a high; it provided some relief from the excruciating pain of dying.

Each individual has different pain tolerances and symptoms. It is reprehensible for government officials to restrict the ways in which medical marijuana is to be taken, specifically when they are purposely disregarding that for some, smoking marijuana is the only way to consume it.

For example, many cancer patients suffer from extreme nausea and cannot eat anything. The Legislature is better served focusing their efforts on limiting the use of tobacco which has no redeeming qualities. 

State Rep. Ray Rodrigues’s claim that the push for medicinal marijuana is a “backdoor attempt at recreational use” is absurd. Those that seek marijuana for medicinal purposes are not doing so to feel “high,” they do it to make dying a little easier, to live a few hours with less pain and perhaps to have one last meal with the family and friends they love.

I would not wish the experience I had of watching my relatives die a painful death on anyone. I do, however, wish insight and understanding on those making it difficult to obtain and use medical marijuana. 

Ultimately, it should not be the Legislature’s discretion whether a patient is allowed to use medical marijuana, or how they can consume it. The doctors who are prescribing it are trained medical professionals who have been able to witness first-hand the benefits it has on those who suffer from debilitating and terminal illnesses. Doctors certifying the use of cannabis for patients know what is best for each individual.

We cannot discredit medical advice due to political agendas. We should trust the medical community to give unbiased recommendations when it comes to health.

It is inexcusable to deprive citizens of the benefit of a medication that has been proven effective and safe, based on illogical concerns. Legislation on medical marijuana should be practical and based on research. Depriving citizens of the right to receive effective treatment from a medication that has been researched and proven to provide relief that is unavailable to patients through other means is inexcusable.

Legislation limiting access to medically necessary treatment turns law-abiding citizens to seek dangerous and illegal ways to help those they love. We allow doctors to prescribe dangerous and highly addictive medications like opioids for those in chronic pain, but want to limit the use of marijuana, which is far less addictive and overdose is almost impossible.

We must show compassion to all those who are suffering and have no other means of relief by providing them with the ability to increase their quality of life, and not create nonsensical legislation. The government should acknowledge the urgency of those suffering and allow an individual and their doctor to make decisions regarding their health. 

Belkis Plata is a partner at Plata Schott Attorneys and Counselors at Law focusing on criminal defense, family law and personal injury defense.

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