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(News-Press.com) - Florida's largest physicians group came out strongly against medical marijuana last week, saying the proposed constitutional amendment to allow it would lead to "improper access" to the drug.

Dr. Alan Pillersdorf, a Palm Springs cosmetic surgeon and president of the 20,000-member association, explained the reasoning in a written statement. Essentially, the Florida Medical Association argues that the proposal does not place enough controls on prescribing:

"We believe the unintended consequences of Amendment 2 are serious and numerous enough for us to believe they constitute a public health risk for Floridians," Pillersdorf wrote. "The lack of clear definitions in the amendment would allow healthcare providers with absolutely no training in the ordering of controlled substances, to order medical marijuana."

The medical association's general counsel, Jeff Scott, told me later that the group is concerned that unqualified medical professionals — he used the example of chiropractors — would be able to prescribe it. Scott added that the organization might be willing to reconsider its stance if more studies were to show the drug to be safe and effective in treating specific ailments.

"All you have now is anecdotal stories from individuals," he said.

Still, the Legislature has bought some of the evidence. It approved the use of a limited, non-euphoric strain known as "Charlotte's Web" this year to help treat severe epilepsy. While debate over the existing scientific literature on the subject continues, research is now underway at the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research and elsewhere.

United for Care, the group trying to get the amendment passed this fall, responded to the medical association by calling the stance hypocritical. Doctors now, for instance, can prescribe highly addictive and potentially lethal painkillers, the group notes.

Marijuana can harm brain development in the young, and its extensive use can cause psychological dependency. But experts say it is virtually impossible to suffer a fatal overdose from pot.

Dementia care

The Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer's Resource Center and Nurse On Call of Fort Myers, are starting a new program to help family caregivers better care for loved one with dementia.

The program will emphasize an occupational therapy approach to care, teaching caregivers how to "set up structure and support based on the remaining skills set of their loved one, keeping their loved one involved and content, thereby reducing caregiver stress," according to organizers.

Classes will be on the second Thursday of every month. Registration is required. For more information, contact Mary Freyre, a registered nurse and health education specialist at the Dubin Alzheimer's Resource Center at 437-3007.

— Compiled by Frank Gluck

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