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Orlando mom begins crusade to legalize marijuana as medicine

TALLAHASSEE — A self described stay-at-home mom from Orlando who wants better treatment options for her ailing father is launching a drive to put medical marijuana on the 2010 ballot.

orlando medical marijuana Kim Russell, a third-generation Floridian and founder of People United for Medical Marijuana, (PUFMM,) said she is not a marijuana user and is not trying to get pot legalized in Florida. She just wants her 62-year-old father to get the most effective drug for his Parkinson’s disease.

“It breaks my heart that he could not get medicine that could help him avoid brain surgery,” she said.

Russell estimates that there are 1.7 million seriously ill Floridians who could benefit from the medical use of marijuana, everyone from breast cancer patients to people suffering from glaucoma and chronic pain.

Using that population base, an average $5,000-per-year prescription cost and an 8 percent sales tax, Russell estimates the industry could generate $200 million a year in direct revenue alone for Florida.

Russell said her group has set a “budget” of $1.5 million to get the initiative passed, but declined to say how much she has already raised. Collecting the more than 676,000 signatures necessary will be difficult, she acknowledged, but she is encouraged by recent news from the Obama Administration.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would no longer target medical-marijuana dispensaries in 13 states that have medical-marijuana laws, a departure from the Bush Administration, which contended that the states are violating federal statutes.

The proposed state constitutional amendment would permit, “the cultivation, purchase, possession and use of marijuana,” to treat a host of ailments, “or other diseases and conditions when recommended by a physician.”

Russell said the group may use paid petition gatherers.

“If we have to,” she said. “Right now, we’re using volunteers.”

By Jim Ash

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