SARASOTA, Fla. - Two sides in the debate about medical marijuana came face to face in Sarasota Wednesday, as attorney John Morgan and Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight shared the stage at a Tiger Bay discussion.
“You can sit here and tell us that with this amendment, the drug cartel will not come into Sarasota County. Let me tell you something, Sheriff – they’re here now," said Morgan.
He and Sheriff Knight have very opposing beliefs on the matter. Knight thinks passing a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana will cause more harm than good.
"If passed, we will see medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Sarasota County. We will see children getting their hands on it. And more importantly, when you start taxing a product like this, that creates a whole extra crime problem for us where it goes underground, and people start manufacturing and selling it."
On the other hand, people like John Morgan say marijuana is already underground and disputes the belief that passing the ballot initiative will have a negative impact on crime. “I’ve watched Colorado, I’ve watched Washington State, I've not seen Tony Soprano and company roll in yet."
Morgan has been a driving force in the effort to legalize medical marijuana. He says that crime statistics are being used as a scare tactic to prevent those like his brother, who uses the drug to ease pain, from reaping its benefits. "He was paralyzed. His pain is immeasurable. If he took all the pills they want him to take, he would be a zombie. This takes away his spasms, eliminates his pain."
Morgan says if the measure passes, he wants to name it Tim's law after his brother. But he says his goal is to make sure those who could see their quality of life improved from the drug can get it. "Everybody's talking about the benefits of medical marijuana. Now the door is open and sun is shining in, and we’re hearing testimony, evidence, scientific reports, so anything that gets the word out and stirs the debate is good for all the people who are really sick and need this."
In the meantime, Sheriff Knight says he anticipates the worst. “I would not be standing here speaking as hard as I can as the sheriff of Sarasota County if I didn't know for fact that we are going to get a ton of crime and our quality of life is going to be affected by this."