SARASOTA -- John Morgan brought his argument for medical marijuana to Sarasota on Thursday evening.
The attorney of the Tampa-based law firm Morgan & Morgan pitched his well-known support for Florida's proposed Amendment 2 at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1680 18th St., Sarasota.
In between sips of water, he spoke for the amendment, which would legalize medical marijuana. And in true Morgan style, his argument was peppered with jokes and jabs at his opponent -- Sarasota attorney Shelli Freeland Eddie, who spoke first.
"This is an issue of compassion. It's that simple," Morgan said. "You hear about people worried about their children being prescribed marijuana by their doctors. Anybody here heard of a kid going on a bicycle, riding up to the doctor's office and having an appointment?"
Eddie made clear her opposition centers not on the
legalization of medical marijuana, but on the amendment language, which she said has too many loopholes.
"There are loopholes in oversight, loopholes in regulation, loopholes in enforcement, there are no education provisions and there is a systematic opportunity for substance abuse," she said.
Eddie said there is a public safety risk, particularly for two communities.
"The first community is where medical treatment facilities will be located and the second community is the community that will be impacted by third parties who unscrupulously have access to medical marijuana and resell those drugs in low-income and urban communities," Eddie said. "My concern is that communities who currently experience blight and underemployment, where there are issues of vagrancy and homelessness, that these communities will become Ground Zero because there is a lack of enforcement provision as it relates to someone who, without authority, gets ahold of medical marijuana and uses it for improper purposes."
Morgan said medical marijuana works for people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease; cancer; multiple sclerosis; glaucoma; and epilepsy.
His speech tugged at heartstrings when he pointed at Cathy Jordan, a Parrish resident who suffers from ALS and has been a longtime activist for medical cannabis with her husband, Bob Jordan.
"Eddie wants us to wait, take time to get this done, to wait for the Florida Legislature to do its job," he said. "Well let me tell you something Eddie, you see Cathy Jordan there sitting in that wheelchair?"
Morgan pointed toward the back of the room where the Jordans were seated.
"She's dying of ALS," he said. "She ain't got time to wait for the Florida Legislature to do their job."
He went on to define the disease for Eddie and told the candidate for the Sarasota City Commission District 3 seat she lost a few votes at the forum.
Morgan also spoke about his father, who had cancer and used marijuana toward the end of his life; and his brother, paralyzed since the age of 18 from a lifeguarding accident, who has used marijuana for the pain.
At first, Morgan said his father was reluctant to try marijuana for his pain. He eventually agreed.
"It was a miracle," Morgan said of the day his father finally tried it. "In this house of God, it was like Lazarus. He rose up out of the dead."
Morgan said his father was the primary reason he started advocating for medical marijuana.
Earlier, Robin Cooper stood beside the church with a huge, red cutout sign reading: "YES 2 MEDICAL MARIJUANA." The 38-year-old was with United For Care.
Later, Morgan and his team went inside a megabus with the organization's logo on the side. Morgan chairs the organization's finance committee.
"I believe it's very good medicine for some people that need it -- people with MS, HIV, epilepsy and just all sorts of pain," he said. "I have neighbors who use it medicinally and friends who do and who've tried various prescription pills and it just leveled them. They can't do anything. They can't function on the pills that are given to them by doctors."
Cooper said they can function with medical marijuana.
"They can go out and maybe fish a little bit and try to enjoy life," he said, "instead of being in a pill-induced coma."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.