Florida: Medical Marijuana Debate Pulls In South Florida Seniors
Fight To Legalize Pot Continues
By Paul Lagrone, Anchor & Reporter
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- I sat there thinking, "Am I about to break the law?"
The thought crossed my mind as I watched Irvin Rosenfeld light up a joint and smoke it right in front of me.
The truth is, he's allowed to smoke marijuana. I'm not. The difference between you and I and Irv Rosenfeld is about 40 years of battling bone cancer and a major legal victory that he won against the federal government. He convinced the feds that he needed pot to live, that it helped him cure his cancer, that it wasn’t marijuana.
That it was medicine.
So, since 1982, Uncle Sam has been sending Rosenfeld a tin can stuffed with joints. He picks it up at the pharmacy every month.
Irvin Rosenfeld's story starts off our look at a growing fight to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. It’s a fight that’s gaining ground in South Florida, and the people who are pushing it say senior citizens may be the key to getting a new law passed.
Robert Platshorn is pot's biggest pitchman. He preaches the gospel of pot to seniors. He started the "Silver Tour." It's a traveling bus show that visits retirement communities in South Florida.
"All they knew was a free show and a free buffet, and then they said, 'Marijuana?'" Platshorn said. "'Marijuana? Did you bring any samples?'"
But Platshorn is not a "sample" kind of guy. During the 1970s, he made millions of dollars smuggling pot from Columbia to South Florida. The documentary "Square Grouper" chronicled his rise as a godfather of ganja. His headquarters: the presidential suite inside the Fountainebleau Hotel.
In the end, his pot empire went up in smoke. He spent 29 years in prison watching his son grow up during jail visits. When he got out, his new marijuana mission began.
"You let people you know who are running for Congress that if you don't support seniors, we're not going to support you," Platshorn said.
At least one lawmaker is listening. Rep. Jeff Clemens, of Lake Worth, is pushing a pot bill in Tallahassee.
"Marijuana doesn't kill anybody," he said. "And it's a viable alternative for people who are in pain."
Oncologist Dr. Robert Green said seniors don't need to smoke joints to cure their ailments, but he has seen it help cancer patients.
“I’ve had patients tell me that the only thing that stopped the nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy was the marijuana," Green said.
But the idea of legalizing pot for seniors flies in the face of the antidrug message for teenagers. Antidrug experts say look no further than California, where a headache will earn you a permit to smoke pot.
"You're talking about guys in a public setting standing in the doorways with a bag of marijuana shaking it, trying to get people to come in," said Jeff Kadel, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition. "Signs on the window saying '$40 doctor visits.'"
Irvin Rosenfeld doesn't consider himself an "addict."
He's been tumor-free since he started smoking pot 37 years ago.
He's a case study of "one" in a growing debate that's now spreading to Florida’s senior population.