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Professors speak on medical marijuana legalization panel on Friday, offer blunt opinions

College professors butted heads over the medical marijuana issue during a discussion on the topic at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Friday.

Carl Hart, an associate professor of psychology at Columbia University, debated with Harvard University professor Bertha Madras at the marijuana legalization panel hosted by the Florida Law Review.

At the event, Hart said medical marijuana should be legalized because the potential for abuse is equivalent to a legal prescription drug.

Madras, a professor of psychobiology, disagreed with Hart.

She said marijuana should be in the schedule 1 drug rating category, which includes heroin.

“Marijuana is a plant with THC levels that vary between 1 and 15 percent, so you really can’t call that a medicine,”she said. “The FDA will never approve it until the therapeutic window, safety window and long-term consequences are known.”

Panelist Scott Teitelbaum, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UF, sided with Madras in saying marijuana is dangerous and has addiction liability.

“You don’t smoke medicines, and you don’t vote on them to become legal,” Teitelbaum said. “The plant has over 400 chemicals, so it’s clearly not a safe medicinal option.”

Two other panelists at the discussion focused on the growth of efforts for medical marijuana legalization at the state level and where federal law comes into play.

Florida voters will decide on the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes on Nov. 4.  

“We are in a new world now when it comes to marijuana research,” said panelist Beau Kilmer, a senior policy researcher at the Research and Development Corporation Kilmer.

“I think we are going to get better information about what people are consuming, and we will continue to make strides in science and the economy.”

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[A version of this story ran on page 8 on 10/27/2014]

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