KEY LARGO -- An elderly cancer patient said she may have to leave the state after Monroe County Sheriff's deputies told her to stop using hash oil as a tumor treatment.
Deputies responded to a Sharon Place home recently after being alerted by the Drug Enforcement Administration that a cannabis oil package had been discovered by the U.S. Postal Service. Although DEA agents were not on scene, sheriff's deputies were only acting in a supporting role in the matter, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Becky Herrin.
Herrin declined to reveal what was said by the officers during their visit. She referred questions to DEA officials, who did not return a phone call seeking comment. She added that deputies did not file an incident report.
Sheriff Rick Ramsay told the Free Press late last week that he was unaware of the matter.
The cancer patient, who said she was thankful deputies gave her only a warning, told the Free Press she was moving to a state where she could use the oil. She then abruptly ended the interview.
Former State Attorney Dennis Ward is leading the local charge to encourage voters to support Amendment 2 on November's election ballot, which would legalize medicinal marijuana in Florida. Approval requires a 60 percent vote.
Ward said the local cancer patient is exactly the kind of person the amendment would benefit.
"This is a lady who has never been in trouble in her life," Ward said. "She said she would rather die than be arrested."
Pretty soon, though, some medical patients in Florida may have easier access to the drug. Late last week, the Florida Legislature sent Gov. Rick Scott a bill legalizing a particular strain of marijuana, known as "Charlotte's Web," to be prescribed to cancer patients and those suffering from severe epileptic seizures.
The Republican governor has indicated he would not veto the bill.
Despite the efforts by state politicians, Ward and other medical marijuana proponents said an amendment is the only way to make sure patients have continued access to the drug. Future legislatures could restrict or undo what this year's body has done, but a voter amendment can only be undone by another amendment, Ward said.
Meanwhile, Monroe County State Attorney Catherine Vogel, also a supporter of medicinal marijuana, said she would not have immediately prosecuted the local cancer patient even if an arrest had been made.
"Our office has never prosecuted anyone claiming to use marijuana for medicinal purposes," she said.
She said she intends to wait to see how the November vote turns out before prosecuting similar cases should they arise.