There are proven solutions to reducing drug addiction and the negative impact it has on our community. Unfortunately the current leadership in Florida is ignoring them.
June 8, 2018
By: Ryan Ramsey
My morning ritual includes a review of news and opinion columns from across the political spectrum.
Today I ran across an article about the battle between Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney John Morgan over cannabis medicine in Florida that really got me thinking.
Rick Scott and John Morgan are essentially waging a proxy war, with each playing the role of archetype for one of two main factions of Americans on the issue of cannabis medicine and drug policy in general.
The gulf between these two groups seems an impossible one to bridge at first glance. Despite what seems like a hopelessly incongruent set of goals for each, there is a proven policy solution that would satisfy both.
The foundation of this bridge I seek to build is empathy, and as the vitriolic debate grows more polarized, the participants find it increasingly easier to ignore the reality that both sides have sufferred greatly, and have truly noble intentions.
Florida needs some insight into their proxy warriors, because they are a pretty amazing microcosm for the citizens lined up behind them. They are essentially a group concerned with the pain and suffering of people that benefit from cannabis, opposed by a group of people concerned with the pain and suffering caused by addiction and drug abuse.
John Morgan has a brother who was paralyzed during the search for a possible drowning child while working as a lifeguard at Disneyworld. The treatment of Tim Morgan afterward motivated John’s entry into injury law, where his firm Morgan & Morgan has become one of the largest in the country.
The regimen of pharmaceuticals doctors were giving Tim were ineffective and possibly harming him worse, and included opiates and benzodiazepenes, among the leading killers peddled by big pharma. Tim Morgan eventually found relief from his daily suffering and a dramatic increase in quality of life from cannabis.
Ramon Morgan, their father, was diagnosed with terminal cancer many years later. An Orlando Sentinel article from 2013 described John Morgan’s experience with cannabis during that time:
He twisted himself into a fetal position, hallucinating from the pain and drugs he was prescribed and tied to an oxygen tank to help him breathe.
Morgan’s younger brother, Tim, who was paralyzed from the neck down in high school, had a suggestion that had helped him: Smoke marijuana.
The first time he did it, [the housekeeper] made him a pot-roast dinner, and he ate the whole dinner and had a Miller Lite,” Morgan recalled. “He said it was a miracle.”
John Morgan is the archetype of Floridians who have seen the suffering of those they love the most alleviated by a plant medicine that has never caused an overdose death in human history.
These citizens cannot believe that their loved ones could have been arrested for seeking relief from their physical suffering inflicted by injury or disease.
They cannot accept that our veterans with PTSD, resulting from the horrors of the wars they were sent to fight, should be denied treatment or be branded as criminals for seeking relief with plant medicine.
They cannot accept that the act of compassion by giving a desperate and suffering loved one some cannabis, they magically transform into a narcotics distributor who should be subjected to mandatory minimum sentencing.
Rick Scott’s views on cannabis, which he considers a “gateway drug“, were also shaped by life experiences involving his brother and his father.
Prior to becoming the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott was very successful in life. His brother Roger did not find success, wealth, or fame.
Roger Scott spent his life struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. He lives in Texas on government assistance. His life accomplishments seem to have amounted to little more than a series of drug arrests.
Rick Scott’s father also plays a likely key role in his views. His late mother, Esther, told the story of Scott’s birth father during his 2010 campaign. He was an abusive alcoholic who abandoned the family when Rick Scott was just an infant.
Rick Scott is the archetype of Floridians who have sufferred crime, broken homes, and ever increasing welfare costs in the wake of drug and alcohol abuse.
This first pillar of the bridge, empathy, needs to be embraced by both sides. We need to deflate this balloon of animosity in order to have the rational discussion about implementing a solution.
To the cannabis activists, understand that there is no relief for much of the suffering caused by addiction.
Rick Scott’s wealth and power did not alleviate his pain of being abandoned by his dad any more than the drugs Roger Scott used in his attempt to escape that pain.
Substance abuse is a scourge that has touched nearly every family in this country, including my own. Last year my brother in law was found dead in his bed after injecting a fatal dose of fentanyl laced heroin.
In order to convince those represented by the Scott archetype to care about the suffering of cannabis patients, the suffering of the families ravaged by drug abuse needs to be acknowledged. Appeals for the rights of cannabis patients and ending the drug war as we know it should always note these are policies which will dramatically reduce drug abuse.
To the Christian Conservatives who form both the largest base of opposition to cannabis medicine, and support for ramping up the drug war, you need to remember that Jesus healed the sick, and showed compassion to the dregs of society, while admonishing his followers to “judge not, lest you be judged”.
It is not your place to determine who is truly sick and who “just wants to get high”. The fact that suffering people are dismissed en-masse, in favor of a broad brush that paints them as druggie losers, is beyond callous.
To hear John Morgan’s story and not be moved to compassion would be a horrendous representation of the Christian tradition of love and charity.
Now that we have established that both camps have good intentions, and built the bridge foundation on empathy for our mutual suffering, I will finish building this bridge, on the idea that we must employ a solution that helps alleviate the sufffering of both factions.
That solution exists, and it has a proven record of success in Portugal. The policy shift was simple, to treat drug addiction for what it is, a mental health problem, rather than a crime.
Since decriminalizing drugs and shifting substance abuse into the arena of mental health care in 2001, they have reduced heroin use by 75%. Overall drug use has been reduced by over 50%. Per capita, more American teens have tried cocaine than Portugese teens have tried marijuana.
Portugal today has one of the lowest rates of drug overdose death among all countries in the west.
The question is, why are we doing the exact opposite in the US, with Florida among the leaders in implementing ever increasing punitive measures with a proven record of failure?
People use drugs most often to kill pain.
We must recognize the right of people like Ramon and Tim Morgan to relieve their pain from injury and illness.
We must also recognize the pain of abandonement that led Roger Scott into a life of addiction and treat it constructively. Arresting him only made it worse. It obviously did not help because more arrests came later.
I do not know if Roger Scott is a father, but if we imprison a child’s dad, are we not just setting the stage for the next generation of addicts who dull the pain of growing up without a father by abusing drugs and alcohol?
Could this be a major factor in minority communities with high percentages of drug convictions?
Drug arrests rob people of hope, one of the most important things people need in order to recover from addiction. Even if they quit using, they are still denied employment opportunities and many other avenues toward building a prosperous and sober life.
This hurts us as much as them. Thefts and increasing public service and welfare costs continue to rise. Who pays for the food and medical care of families deprived of a breadwinner by the criminal justice system, or the head of household reduced to low wage jobs for a lifetime? You and I do in many cases.
Prisons are overcrowded with drug offenders who only hurt themselves, leaving more truly dangerous people in the streets.
Imagine if we could take all those law enforcement resources and redeploy them from drug busts to finding producers of child pornography, fugitive rapists and murderers, and the growing organized electronic crime rings?
The choice is clear. We need love, empathy for each other, and common sense to tackle this epidemic.
I call on Rick Scott to drop appeals of the court decision that legalized smokeable cannabis for patients in Florida.
As an act of love, and to prevent more children from growing up without a father and passing his own pain to future generations, pardon every drug offender in Florida, and give them a second chance at a new life.
Instruct the Attorney General to have Florida law enforcement “stand down” on the drug war, and the legislature to call a special session and repeal the draconian drug prohibition laws that make the problem worse.
Use your considerable fortune and background in health care related business to create treatment centers and provide Florida’s addicts the help they need. With treatment, and your signature on a pardon, Florida’s addicts can be born again.
I feel for you Governor Scott. I implore you not to project anger at your father and guilt at being unable to help your brother on cannabis paients and those suffering with mental health and addiction problems.
This would be the best way for you to renew your own soul, and spare future Floridians perpetual pain and suffering. Don’t hand this off to the next administration.
Decriminalization is the anti-drug.