Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the tag “Florida”

My Daughters’ 1st Amendment Rights

The 1st Amendment to our constitution reads as follows:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  These things are guaranteed, freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably protest, freedom of press, freedom of religion, and the freedom to complain to the government.  This applies to ALL United States citizens.  I repeat, this applies to ALL US citizens.  While there are limitations to the 1st Amendment (not being allowed to yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, hate speech, etc.), there are no limits (including age) as to US citizenship.

Children born in the US or on US properties, are born US citizens.  Children adopted internationally, as were my daughters, who are naturalized through processes at a US embassy of the country adopted from, or go through processes of citizenship back on US soil, ARE ALL US citizens, no matter if 6 months of age, 12 years old, or 40 years old.  But I want to stick with the fact, that children are considered “citizens”, which means that they are also guaranteed their 1st Amendment rights.

There is no age limit to be able to speak freely.  Yes, they must be 18 to vote.  Children in most states must be at 16 years old to drive a car.  Adults must be 21 to drink alcohol and children must only be 18 to smoke tobacco products.  Gun ownership has its own age rules and it is only getting more confusing.  But to stay on track on this post, there is no age limit for the 1st Amendment.

Tomorrow, March 14th, is the first of three planned “protests” to bring attention to something that has existed for decades, but brought to national attention twenty years ago as a boiling point that should never have been reached, violence in schools that led to the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado.

While many people want to point fingers and blame at weapons of choice, the thing that cannot get lost, while the spotlight is on the most current event, is that for twenty years, our country, our government, and even we as citizens, have done nothing to reverse the direction that violence in schools have taken.  Even the slaughter of kindergartners and 1st graders at Sandy Hook was not enough to get more of a usual response of “thoughts and prayers”, talk about it, forget about it, repeat.

But for some reason, there is a different feeling coming from the senseless tragedy that occurred a month ago in Parkland, Florida.  As usual, the adults are doing the same thing as always, “thoughts and prayers”, blame, our government reps talk about it, and as usual, it appears we are once again at the same point as always, ready to move on, to wait for the next massacre.

What does not help, is that our President took to two televised opportunities, one, meeting with those affected by violence in schools, and the other in a meeting of senators to challenge them to come up with a solution or solutions that he would approve, acknowledging how dire things have become.  He promised families something would be done.  The president called out representatives who could be afraid or intimidated by the National Rifle Association.  It seemed like things were finally going to be going in the common sense direction.  Strict and enforced background checks, increased age limits for long guns to match handguns, banning bump stocks.  We all saw the intent and heard the hope from the president.

But he lied.  Either he had no intention all along, or after meeting with the NRA, he “changed” his own mind, which is kind of ironic considering he had just called out several senators on television for not standing up to the NRA.

The bottom line, here is where we are at following the tragedy in Florida, back at the beginning of the next cycle, waiting for the next act of school violence.  And I am purposely writing it that way, violence.  Because I do not care what weapon is used.  We as adults are letting our children down while we worry about ourselves and what we want.  In the mean time, more children have died in school violence.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over and over and over and over, and expecting a different result.

I was bullied all throughout elementary and junior high school so I understand violence in school.  I graduated in 1983, probably one of the last years that school violence was not put in the national spotlight.  Fights and other acts of violence were not dealt with using weapons for the most part.  But a few years later, my high school had metal detectors installed after weapons had been discovered being brought to school.  Now, many schools not only have metal detectors, but Student Resource Officers or policemen.  Is it really not that obvious, that violence had increased to the point that armed police officers now patrol our schools, instead of finding a way to deal with the violence itself before it gets to the point of an actual event?  At this point, without addressing dealing with the violence, dealing with the weapons of choice is a moot point.  And while we as adults continue to spin our wheels, protecting our own interests, our youngest citizens tomorrow will exercise their right to speak an peaceably protest.

For 17 minutes tomorrow, March 14th, many students, none forced to do so, will exit their classrooms, and assemble outside, to remember the 17 victims in the Florida school massacre a month ago.  Yes, it will get a lot of media attention.  And that is the point.  The adults, our government have already moved on.  Parkland is now history.  But it is not history, and tomorrow children will remind us that we have not done enough, and the children have not forgotten.

Seriously, as a reader of this post, are you one of the lucky ones who knows what it is like to have gone to school without fear of being shot or stabbed?  Or are you young enough to never know that feeling of being safe?  That is how today’s children go to school.  They have no idea what it is like to go to school without a legitimate fear of being killed.

The school district where my children attend school, is taking the approach of providing a safe, structured, and controlled opportunity for its students to participate in the national walkout tomorrow.  The district has dedicated space to protest, time to do so, and without fear of punishment for leaving class time.  The district is not pushing citizens for exercising their free speech.

The same cannot be said for some other districts such Lewisburg, PA that will serve students with a detention (fortunately that will not be a permanent mark on their record, and the district can still be perceived as being tough on dissidents while standing on the 1st amendment rights of the students), or several districts  in states like Texas who will actually serve suspensions to students who walk out for this protest.  If there is one good response to this particular action, colleges have actually said that participation in the National Walkout tomorrow, and if suspended, most colleges will not hold that discipline against the student applicants.

And of course, outside of the schools, and away from the government, there are the rest of us adults.  And I believe that we all want our children safe.  And  I also believe that most of us adults believe in the rights of the students to assemble tomorrow.  And for those that do not, do so for any possible reasons.  Those that still believe in the “children should be seen not heard” (in other words, have no voice).  There will be those who worry that the fire will continue to be stoked with more fuel so that we continue to talk about violence in the schools, and for some, that means a fear of gun control which I have intentionally avoided talking about in this post.  Of course, the reality, especially for high school seniors, currently 17 or 18 years of age, are going to be voters.  And that is a lot of new voters.  Voters who are now paying attention to the inaction of our government.  Voters who see the money lined in the pockets of our politicians.  Voters who see not the cause of the increased violence in our schools, but definitely see leaders who should be doing just that, lead, and find a solution so that while we protect airports, sports arenas, court houses, we protect our schools with the same efforts.  It is ridiculous that we worry about a bottle of water, or a sandwich going through TSA at an airport, but cannot provide that level of concern when it comes to our children in school.

So, I have encouraged both of my daughters to participate tomorrow.  Realistically, a solution will not happen by the next day, week, or even months later.  But children are willing to do what adults are not.



Being Humane

Have you ever watched someone suffer in chronic or terminal pain?  Have you ever seen a young patient with tremors that just would not stop?  Have you ever witnessed someone not wanting to eat, losing weight, their bodies wasting away because of the side effects of other medicines meant to save their lives?  If you could wave a magic wand over the patient, to make any of these or other symptoms, just magically disappear, would you do it?

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Then many states will have that opportunity for voters to wave their “magic wand”, AKA the right to vote, to approve legalizing medical marijuana, joining 20 other states who have decided that it is a humane need to provide comfort and relief to patients suffering debilitating diseases who cannot find relief otherwise.  Even if six more states approve medical marijuana use, still, almost half of the United States has no plans to legalize medical marijuana.

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Alzheimers, Cancer, ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease), HIV, Osteoporosis, Multiple Sclerosis… we all know at least one person who has suffered with one or more of these diseases.  And we all have to agree, it is definitely suffering.  Suffering triumphs over quality of life, but it does not have to.  The fact is, and cannot be denied, marijuana would help every patient deal with the chronic side effects and pains of nearly every malady known to man.

At least three times in my life, had medical marijuana been available during my multiple medical crisis, I would have done much better.  I could never control my nausea with the prescription meds given during my cancer treatments.  The unbelievable pain I endured following my open heart surgery from having my breast bone cracked in half only controlled by a narcotic powerful to knock my unconscious… great way to deal with pain, huh?  Life-long chronic pain for late developing side effects when at its worst, taking up to 4 different drugs to just touch the pain, and give slight opportunity to sleep.  I can only wish I had the opportunity to have been able to use medicinal marijuana.

My father, who recently died from lung cancer, prior to his death, had been dealing with a lack of hunger issue.  Well, as we all know, one of marijuana’s awful side effects is causing hunger.  But fortunately, he was prescribed Marinol, to help boost his appetite, which it did.  Do you know what it did not do?  It did not make him a stoner.  He did not get high.  He ate.  It helped to improve his life.

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With all the benefits that medical marijuana has to offer, how could anyone be against helping a patient live a more humane quality of life?  There is absolutely no reason at all for anyone to be against this treatment option.  Yet they exist.  And their reasons are just as confusing and contradictory as their beliefs about the drug and its influences.

As a teenager back in the 1970’s, well after marijuana was mainstream, we were constantly taught, that cigarette smoking was bad.  Not just because of causing cancer, and heart problems, but because teen smoking was a “gateway” to smoking pot, which of course was a “gateway” to harder drugs and alcohol.  But was teen smoking made illegal?  Eventually.  Were teen smoking laws enforced?  There is not going to be an answer to this because enforcement of teen smoking is a joke, especially since many parent provide the cigarettes themselves.  But over time, we have gotten away from the “gateway to pot”, forgotten about the lethalness of cigarette smoking, and instead have now made the main “gateway” label, applied to marijuana.

That is right, several want you to believe that medical marijuana is going to be the gateway to harder drugs.  Alright, I know I am not being fair.  Of course those few actually mean “recreational marijuana”, not medical marijuana.  But they do believe the legalization of medical marijuana will lead to the legalization of recreational use.  And this is what the anti-medical marijuana people want to prevent.  They want patients who are suffering, to continue to do so, so that some day, other people who just want to smoke pot for the giggles of it, which still would not effect them because they were neither patient or user, to continue to suffer.

This is the only argument that those against medical use of marijuana can state.  They do not want recreational use of marijuana legalized and they are afraid that will be the next step if medicinal use of marijuana is legalized.  And this is a stupid thought process.  And for that selfishness people will continue to suffer needlessly.

Cigarettes are known to kill people.  They definitely killed my dad and grandfather just to name two people I knew.  Have we made them illegal?

Alcohol is known to kill people.  I have buried too many to count.  Have we made that illegal?  Oh yes, we tried that.  It did not work.

Marijuana to my knowledge has not killed anyone.  I definitely do not know anyone who died from marijuana usage, medical or recreational.  Why is it illegal to this day?

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My state of Florida is one of the latest states to finally consider the humanity of access to medicinal marijuana.  On November 4th, voters will finally be to help patients deal with chronic pain, side effects, and terminal illnesses.  Spearheading the movement in Florida is attorney John Morgan who advertises his campaign with the loss of a loved one who needlessly suffered not having access to a drug that definitely would have improved the quality of life.

The sad thing is, in anticipation of approval of Amendment 2, the legalization of medicinal marijuana in Florida, many Florida communities have already taken steps to prevent accessibility to prescription marijuana.  In Naples, a very conservative community, their city council just banned any dispensaries within city limits.  In other words, NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).  Again, the only argument given is that medicinal marijuana will lead to recreational, and Naples does not want that.  So if you have chronic health and pain issues, perhaps Naples is not going to be the place you want to rest and convalesce, especially if you need the convenience of a dispensary for something although hopefully legal, just will not be available there.

Another unusual comment as to the denial of using medicinal marijuana came from an unusual source.  The president and CEO of the Naples Community Hospital Healthcare System, Dr. Allen Weiss offered an op-ed piece in a recent Florida Weekly…

“I believe medical marijuana is a solution to a problem that does not exist.  The danger in allowance of ‘medical’ marijuana is that it could act as a starter drug in our nation.  There are already existing, safe, easy-to-take medications readily available and prescribed by oncologists and physicians (this sentence was shortened for content, but this was the gist of the comment).”

Do you see this?  Is this really the reason a major health leader is against something that would make a difference to the quality of someone’s life?  Worried about gateway usage from someone chronic or terminal?  Or is the real reason that the pharmaceutical industry stands to take a huge loss from loss of addicting prescriptions for pain and depression for a plant we all know would cost 1/100 of what many generic drugs actually cost?

I am not a pothead, or stoner.  And I do not care if someone else uses the drug for recreational use.  But having been on opioids and other prescription medications for chronic and acute pain, all having various side effects of their own, three times in my life, the odds are in my favor that I will some day face that need again.  And I am hoping that the voters of Florida do the right thing on November 4th, and vote yes on Amendment 2, and legalize the human use of medicinal marijuana.

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