SPRING HILL — Cheryll Morales came prepared Wednesday afternoon with slide presentation, detailed notes and stories of her success using medical marijuana and was set to impart that knowledge to all who came to the one-hour class at the Spring Hill Library.
But by 4:10 p.m., it became evident nobody was going to show up.
Rather than pack up and go home, Morales turned to the organizer of the event, Joe Lemieux with the Hernando Democratic Club, and decided to put on a dry run for a second presentation scheduled for next week.
Lemieux was not happy with the no-show by residents, especially since he believes medical marijuana is something that people need to become more informed on before they vote in November on Amendment 2, which asks people if they want medical pot legal.
“This is a very strange community,” said Lemieux, who advertised the class in the local media. “I don’t know what it takes to get people out.”
For about 45 minutes, Morales, a retired New York City policewoman who now lives in Colorado, pitched the benefits of medical marijuana and how it has been shown to alleviate suffering and, in some cases, speed recovery in diseases ranging from cancer and arthritis to HIV/AIDS and irritable bowel syndrome.
She stressed from the outset her talk was about the medicinal qualities of pot and would not pontificate on the pros and cons of legalization, either for medical or recreational purposes.
At the offset, she wanted to squelch the stereotype of the comedic “stoner” often portrayed in movies.
“I am not a Cheech-and-Chong-type person,” said Morales, referring to the comedy duo who often portrayed laughable druggies who lived to get high. “I never even saw their movies.”
Morales, 57, who retired from the New York police department in 1989, said she lived with chronic pain for 25-plus years until being prescribed marijuana in 2009. She was taught how to administer tincture, a liquid concentrated form of marijuana, to some patients.
In Colorado, she had her own small organic grow operation, using the marijuana for smoking, making tincture and cooking baked goods. But during the first year, she crushed her left leg in a home renovation accident and could not continue growing.
Since 2007, she has had 11 surgeries, including three leg re-attachments, lower back rods and screws and five joint replacements in both hands so she could no longer perform the physical activities necessary to grow pot.
She still wears a leg brace and travels with a therapy dog.
Morales said she has treated 35 patients who have symptoms that qualify in Colorado for medical marijuana. She has also used tincture on dogs to help the animals with muscle spasms and post operative pain.
Morales said marijuana has received a bad rap from “yellow journalists” who sought to demonize weed. In reality, hemp and cannabis date back to ancient China and India, she said. Even the Pilgrims brought hemp seeds with them to America in 1632 and by 1850, it was America’s third largest crop, she said.
Law enforcement officers throughout Florida, including Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis, have come out in opposition to the legalization of medical marijuana.
Amendment 2 goes before voters in the form of a referendum in November.
“The legalization of marijuana will make this drug more readily available and easier to obtain by teens, as they would not need parental consent to get a ‘physician’s certification’ for marijuana,” Nienhuis said in an earlier prepared statement.
Lemieux takes issue with Nienhuis’ statement.
“I think that is incredibly hypocritical to be opposed to this and not come out against alcohol, which creates DUIs and domestic abuse calls,” he said.
A recent statewide poll found a large majority of people support the legalization of pot. The Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) came out Thursday urging Floridians to rethink their support of the proposed amendment, calling the effort a potentially dangerous threat to families and communities.
“Regardless of any state laws, recreational marijuana use is still illegal on the federal level because of its high potential for abuse and the fact that there is no currently accepted national standard for use as a medical treatment,” according to FPCA President Frank Kitzerow. “It’s important to understand that expanding the use of marijuana for medical purposes is not a safer way to use the drug.”
Morales is visiting in Florida and will soon return to Colorado, where she said the legalization of both medical and recreational pot has led to the elimination of the Mexican pot cartels.
Lemieux urges people to attend the next class, set for 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 7 at the West Hernando branch library, 6335 Blackbird Ave, Weeki Wachee.
“Come and learn about this stuff and what it can do for you and your friends,” Lemieux said. “People are brainwashed to think only the medical establishment can help you.”