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Recently a miracle happened in the Sunshine State. Doug Bench, a former Florida judge notorious for his hatred of marijuana and harsh punishment of those using it for medicinal or recreational purposes, did a sharp 180. A surprise diagnosis of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) turned Bench from a staunch opponent of marijuana to a cannabis crusader. Why? Victims of COPD often suffer tremendously from their condition and marijuana can ease their pain and even extend their life. Cannabis oil works wonders for COPD. Bench said, “I hated marijuana, I hated the use of marijuana and the violation of the law, but, I had no choice, I had to break the law if I wanted to live.”
For Bench and those like him, marijuana is the answer to their prayers. Unfortunately, before his revelation Bench was notorious for his draconian punishment of casual users. In 2009, Florida was deemed to be the worst place to get charged with possession. The penalties were steep and even minor offenders could face jail time. As for Bench, the people that he sentenced to prison still haunt him. Since retirement, he’s made steps to make it right. He advocated for legalization at a public forum on Florida’s Medical Marijuana Implementation using his own experience with COPD as a compelling argument to decriminalize marijuana and recognize the social and medical benefits. He said, “I put 311 people in jail for marijuana offenses — and I was wrong”. Bench also lambasted the United States government for withholding information about the benefits of marijuana and damaging vulnerable citizens. He referred scathingly to the “70 years of lies” that the government has fed us and vowed to make it his mission to open the eyes of the general public and help reverse some of the damage he’d done during his career as a judge.
Bench advocates for removing restrictions to marijuana, including reducing excessive wait times through horizontal integration. Essentially, Bench argues that marijuana should be a resource for all, not just the elite or those with connections. Everyone should have access to this lifesaving plant.
Bench’s epiphany comes at an interesting time. On October 3, Florida will officially issue medical marijuana IDs, making it another state to get on the right side of history and begin to seriously serve its residents in need. Florida will join Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Washington DC as a state that recognizes the importance of marijuana as a treatment for a variety of medical conditions.<
Before you celebrate by sparking a joint, remember that these states have legalized medical marijuana and you must have a Medical Marijuana card in order to imbibe. The importance of getting a card cannot be overstated. It’s still a criminal offense to smoke weed even in states that have legalized it for medical usage. Obtaining a medical marijuana card is a practical and responsible way to partake in cannabis. There are a number of benefits to getting a Medical Marijuana card, including;
• You are legally covered as a law-abiding user of medical marijuana. Some people still harbor archaic ideas about the “dangers” of cannabis. You don’t want to find yourself facing a judge with a grudge against weed who can put you behind bars. Be smart. Do it legally.
• You can visit dispensaries. Gone are the days when you cross your fingers hoping that the bud you just bought is decent. Enter the age of the marijuana dispensary, where you can choose your strain and potency from friendly, professional staff.
• You can grow your own. You can grow and manage your own supply. Enough said.
Your Medical Marijuana card will be roughly the size of your driver’s license. Get a plastic ID with a picture and information certifying that you are legally allowed to possess and consume marijuana. It will fit easily in your wallet or purse and you’ll never have to worry about stepping outside the boundaries of the law.
As Judge Bench learned, cannabis can aid or cure any number of medical conditions. It can comfort the afflicted and ease chronic pain. A comprehensive list of conditions and marijuana’s soothing effect on their symptoms is found here. They include Alzheimer’s, Epilepsy and Multiple Sclerosis. Cannabis has been found effective in taming the side-effects and symptoms of AIDS/HIV and various cancers. It has even been discovered to aid those who are tormented by Glaucoma, a degenerative eye disease that robs the victim of their vision. Marijuana can work to preserve vision for longer and dramatically improve the quality of life for Glaucoma patients.
Judge Bench suffers from COPD, which makes breathing difficult. He discovered that cannabis helped soothe his inflamed lungs, allowing his airways to open up and ease his breathing. The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis make it a wonder drug for people who are impaired with diseases like COPD. Chronic pain sufferers also profit from these anti-inflammatory components. Cannabis has been proven to help lessen nerve pain, one of the major contributors to the discomfort felt by people in chronic pain. Even before legalization, many people were medicating with marijuana because it was, in some cases, even more effective than opiates, with no dangerous addiction risk.
Judge Bench seeing the error of his ways and becoming a key advocate for marijuana use speaks to the wonderful benefits of medical marijuana.
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