I became the chairman of United for Care, the campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, in early 2013. At the time, it was a deeply personal decision.
My younger brother, Tim, was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life when he was just 18 years old. He was working as a lifeguard at Disney and got into an accident trying to rescue a lost child. The day of Tim's accident was the worst day of my life.
Despite being confined to a chair all these years, Tim's had a pretty good life. He's a dad and a husband, and he runs the 400-person call center at Morgan & Morgan. Tim credits marijuana with giving him the ability to lead the life he does. It helps him manage the excruciating neuropathic pain he gets in muscles he can't even move. And it eases his suffering without the mind-numbing side effects of opiate and benzodiazepine narcotics he would otherwise have to consume.
A lot has happened since I started this campaign nearly four years ago: We collected more than 2 million signatures from Floridians to get on the ballot in 2014 and 2016; the Florida Supreme Court approved our amendment twice, most recently in a unanimous decision; the Florida Legislature has failed to act on medical marijuana for two more consecutive sessions; and of course, 58 percent of the electorate voted "yes" for Amendment 2 in 2014.
Something else happened along the way. This battle has become less about my brother and more about the people I've met, the stories I've heard and the realization of how many people will truly benefit from this law on Day One.
I was at a wedding recently and a woman pulled me aside to tell me her husband wanted to meet me. He was in a wheelchair and shared that he was a police officer who was forced into an early retirement by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. He thanked me for fighting for medical marijuana because it was one of the only things that helped him, but he hated that he had to break the law to see that relief.
I hear stories like that every day:
- The single mom who has her toddler on dog tranquilizers, but who is still having dozens of seizures a day.
- The son who lost his mother to cancer, but who marijuana afforded some quality of life to in her last living days.
- The veteran returning home from Iraq, who would wake up sweating and screaming every hour of every night, until a fellow vet suggested he try a little marijuana before bed.
- The man who lost a leg in a car accident and endured the severe, chronic pain of phantom limb syndrome until deciding to break the law and quiet his pain with marijuana.
These are the faces of this campaign. These people — and thousands of others who I've met or who have written or called to share their stories — are now why I've spent almost four years and millions of dollars fighting for medical marijuana in Florida.
The idea that a politician should dictate someone's medical treatments is outrageous. Passing Amendment 2 takes those decisions away from politicians and put them back where they should be: in a doctor's office.
That basic premise that medical decisions should be made between doctors and their patients, and neither party should be criminalized in the process, is the core purpose of this amendment. And I believe deeply that the people of Florida are compassionate and will approve Amendment 2 this November. If this had been any other state in America, the 58 percent support medical marijuana received in 2014 would have firmly established it into law. Every presidential candidate this year supports medical marijuana.
Sick and suffering Floridians will see relief soon.
John Morgan is the founder of Morgan & Morgan. He is the chairman of United for Care.