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TALLAHASSEE, FL. (WTXL) - In 2014, the measure to legalize Marijuana in Florida fell just short of the 60% needed by voters to pass it at the ballot box. It's a topic that's gaining momentum and has lawmakers paying close attention to other states who’ve already passed some form of legalization. So far 23 states, including the District of Columbia, have enacted laws to legalize the drug.
In this week's edition of the INSIDERS the debate continues back and forth with many saying it's not just about getting high. “It helped me immensely. The pressure and pain went from needles in my head to just a slight pressure and that was amazing," says Emalee Hyde.
Hyde, a legalization advocate, also known as Miss April 20th, tried marijuana for the first time when she was 13-years-old. She said she was suffering from migraines and inflammation of her blood vessels that went undiagnosed for 9 years.
Hyde says, "The source of my migraines was found out my junior year at FSU. I went to a holistic doctor and he did an allergy test on me."
Turns out she was suffering from an allergy derived from cows milk. However, once treated she noticed her migraines were starting to return. She says she was also diagnosed with temporomandibular disorder, also known as TMD. Because of this disorder, Hyde says she suffers from arthritis in her jaw. She claims with marijuana consumption her symptoms are often suppressed.
"A Florida doctor recommended, I need to make sure I have enough Cannabis oil and Cannabis type products. There are all sorts of things you can try in Colorado, so he recommends that I keep that in my life to keep the pain and pressure down," Hyde said.
And that's when she started making trips to Colorado.
With marijuana legal in that state, many are flocking there for the health benefits of the the drug. Having marijuana so readily available is helping Colorado both medically and economically. The recreational sales tax alone netted $53 million dollars in its first year.
However, many feel Florida just isn't ready for full legalization.
Rep. Michelle Rewinkle-Vasilinda says, "I think many of my colleagues feel like their constituents might not be supportive that if they go to far to fast that they may lose some support."
Decisions on whether to fully legalize the plant or to only use it for medical purposes are all topics being discussed by Florida lawmakers. Florida Governor Rick Scott has already signed a bill into law allowing limited use of "Charlotte's Web", a specialized strain of the drug used for treating seizures.
Other pushes towards the drug include decriminalizing it all together. According to Rep. Rewinkle-Vasilinda, "It's out there, it's been utilized and I think we need to make sure that people are able to access it and they're not going to jail or prison because of it."
In 2014, Florida voters failed to pass Amendment 2 by 2%. Opponents of the bill raised millions of dollars to defeat it. Proponents are back at the drawing board to not only drum up support but to find legislation that both parties can agree on.
According to Tallahassee Attorney Reggie Garcia, "The arguments against the constitutional Amendment was that there was a little bit of a catch all that gave doctors to much power and too much discretion, and I think if you look at Senator Brandes Bill 528, 19 very tight definitions, 8 specific diseases and 5 specific chronic symptoms so much less room for abuse."
As the Marijuana discussion takes shape across Florida there are those on both sides of the isle that feel it won't be decided until the elections of 2016. As those in favor of legalization regroup and gather support, those in power are realizing the health benefits Marijuana has to offer.
Garcia says, "The main thing though is we're trying to get help to people who have one of these chronic illnesses and we need to look no further than the Charlotte's Web law that was passed last year. So the issues are a little different, but they are related in that this is very health driven and very patient driven and that we need to trust our physicians in a new law that might happen or a Constitutional Amendment which may happen in 2016."
With 23 states and the District of Columbia already embracing the marijuana movement, those in Florida feel it's not "if " the Sunshine state will follow suit but "when".
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