Face to face, medical marijuana champion John Morgan and Vote No on 2 Policy Director Jessica Spencer did not agree even on the basic facts behind each other’s arguments.

In a debate televised on WESH 2 TV in Orlando over Florida Amendment 2, the medical marijuana issue on November’s ballot, Morgan, the Orlando lawyer who chairs United For Care, and Spencer spent much of their time disputing each other’s most fundamental arguments as false.

The amendment would allow for doctors to recommend marijuana for patients suffering from debilitating illnesses ranging from neurological conditions to cancer to chronic pain to end-of-life diseases — if the doctors conclude marijuana could help control the symptoms or reduce pain. With that written, formal recommendation, patients could receive state ID cards that could allow them to obtain marijuana from licensed dispensaries regulated by the state.

The amendment needs 60 percent voter approval in the Nov. 8 election to pass. A poll WESH commissioned and reported during the debate showed it is riding with 69 percent support, with just 24 percent opposed and 7 percent undecided.

Spencer repeatedly insisted the amendment is “de facto legalization” of marijuana in Florida, while Morgan repeatedly insisted that nothing in the amendment would allow for recreational use.

“When your argument is a blatant falsehood, I don’t know how to debate that,” Morgan said.

Morgan repeatedly insisted medical marijuana works for patients suffering a broad range of conditions, while Spencer contended there was not enough science for the medical community to agree.

“He needs to be educated,” she said.

Spencer insisted medical marijuana could be turned into candy, sold near schools and made attractive to children, while Morgan declared the Florida Legislature and county and city governments have the power to prevent such abuses through regulation and would indeed exercise this authority.

Morgan insisted, at its worst, marijuana would certainly be a safer alternative to highly addictive opioid medications, while Spencer argued there is no consensus, as there is with opioids, regarding appropriate medical marijuana strengths, dosages, or times to take it.

Spencer said there are legitimate drug trials under way right now involving pill-form medical marijuana, but Morgan said the pills simply do not work.

Morgan said Spencer’s organization is backed by money from the pharmaceutical industry, which is trying to stop medical marijuana approvals nationwide. Spencer disputed that, saying Vote No On 2 has received no money from the pharmaceutical industry.

Morgan accused Spencer of fearmongering with false arguments against Amendment 2. He belittled her argument about it making marijuana easier to get by contending that right now it is easy to get on the street. The amendment, he argued, is for people who need legally available alternative medicine.

“It is not legalization of recreational marijuana,” Morgan said. “What this is, is a cure for really, really, really sick people.”

Spencer accused Morgan of being “someone who preys on people who don’t want to see other people suffer.”

“Do we want to believe the medical professionals and the medical community, and the law enforcement agencies, and the people that understand science, what we should do here, and how dangerous a constitutional amendment of this kind, which is in fact de facto legalization, or do we want to believe the predators, that prey on our compassion and our caring for individuals who suffer?” Spencer concluded.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@flordiapolitics.com or scottmichaelpowers@yahoo.com.

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