The Bradenton Herald and State College of Florida are pleased to announce a dynamic lineup of panelists for a Community Conversation about the medical marijuana amendment on the November ballot.
The Aug. 20 public forum, on SCF's Bradenton campus, will feature statewide leaders from both sides of the issue, law enforcement and a medical cannabis researcher.
Amendment 2 has sparked broad opposition from substance abuse organizations and law enforcement agencies. A Quinnipiac University poll taken in November, however, shows 82 percent of voters in favor of the amendment, including a majority of conservatives.
The battle lines are drawn, with one pivotal argument about the language in the amendment and whether it is too permissive and open to abuse. Expect to see millions spent on advertising as the election nears.
Community Conversation guests
Jessica Spencer, on leave from her post as project director for the Manatee County Substance Abuse Coalition, is the statewide coalition director for the Vote No on 2! campaign.
She has been highly visible in this community addressing the dangers of marijuana to youth and others, and what amendment opponents cite as flaws in the language of the complete proposal, not just the ballot summary.
She has spoken before numerous organizations, including Manatee Tiger Bay and most recently the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.
Bob and Cathy Jordan of Parrish attribute her longtime survival from Lou Gehrig's disease to cannabis. The Jordans have been lobbying for changes in Florida for 16 years, always rebuffed by the Legislation -- including the defeat of the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Bill this year.
But a citizen petition calling for a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana gained enough signatures and Supreme Court approval for the November ballot, thereby bypassing Tallahassee.
Cathy Jordan, president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, and her husband helped collect those petition signatures.
Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells has served some three decades in law enforcement -- 21 years with the Florida Highway Patrol followed by five years with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, where he attained the rank of lieutenant. He was appointed Palmetto's top cop in July 2010.
Wells was a member of the FHP Drug Interdiction Unit and K-9 Officer during the late '80s to mid-'90s. He holds special training in drug recognition and interdiction techniques.
Greg Gerdeman, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of biology at Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg. He teaches courses in cell biology, human physiology, receptor pharmacology and neuroscience.
His expertise on this issue is strong -- he has studied the consequences of cannabis on the brain for more than 16 years. His research continues.
With his expertise in the endocannabinoid system as well as the mechanisms of drug reward and addiction, Gerdeman has received research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Science Foundation. His research articles have appeared in a variety of journals, including Nature Neuroscience, Trends in Neuroscience and Neuropsychopharmacology.
He calls the science in support of medical marijuana "indisputable."
Details on forum
Presented by the Herald and SCF, these Community Conversations offer the public the opportunity to engage with community and state leaders.
We invite the public to not only attend, but to send us your questions and concerns about the proposed amendment ahead of the forum. We'll address as many of your questions as possible during the forum.
In order to keep the conversation moving along, there will not be an open mike for public comments and questions during the forum. Please submit those in advance of the event.
Please email those questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org or send regular mail to Editorial Page Editor Chris Wille, 1111 Third Ave. W., Bradenton, FL 34205. And please include your name.
The free forum will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at SCF's Howard Studio Theater, located on the college's Bradenton campus in Building 11 West, off 60th Avenue West between 26th and 34th streets, accessed from Parking Lot I. Details can be found at www.scf.edu/maps.
The forum will be broadcast by Manatee Educational Television at later dates.
We invite your attendance at the forum.