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Students bring health discussions to campus

Hot button issues such as national health care reform and mandatory student health insurance were brought to the microphone Monday at the student-led Freshman Five Health Care Conference: Take Charge of Your Health.

But the topic of medical marijuana reform garnered the most response from students, who filtered into the Marshall Student Center’s room 2708 to discuss the pros and cons of the substance.

Josh Giesegh, campaign director of People United for Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), said that contrary to popular belief, marijuana is beneficial for medical purposes.

“Marijuana helps cancer patients and other patients in many different ways. For cancer patients specifically, you’re looking at a decrease in the pain that they’re getting (and) a decrease in their nausea,” he said. “Multiple studies have shown that it (also) benefits areas in the brain, lung, prostate, pancreas and breast.”

Giesegh asked those in attendance to sign a petition toward proposing a constitutional amendment that allows patients to grow, obtain, purchase and possess medical marijuana.

But one audience member vocally opposed Giesegh’s request.

Joe Piervincenti, a 61-year-old part-time USF student, is also a member of PUFMM, but he said he did not support the petition because many who sign it do not fully understand its purpose.

“The overriding atmosphere about all of this is everybody just wants to get stoned,” he said. “This has nothing to do with smoking a joint and eating a bag of chips. There is a hospital over there by the name of Moffitt (Cancer Center). There are people in there who are sick, and it is to approve the use of medical marijuana as a medicine for their welfare.”

Piervincenti said any medical marijuana reform should be conducted under the guidance of the American Medical Association and that the substance itself should go through “clinic trials, the FDA, governmental approval and then drug manufacturers to make it into whatever form is approved.”

Honors College students enrolled in the Critical Thinking and Health Care Major Works Major Issues class organized and conducted the conference, which also touched on issues like nutrition and diabetes and counted for 25 percent of the students’ course grade.

Adjunct professor John Evans, who is also a medical practice administrator for Pulmonary Associates in Brandon, teaches the class, which takes on a different health project every semester. He said all speakers and topics discussed at the event were chosen by the students.

“It’s designed for (students) to work as a team,” he said. “They’re learning to work together and cover a whole broad spectrum of problems: Getting the place, getting the speakers, outreach, public relations, all of those things.”

Hillary Jones, a junior majoring in biomedical sciences who helped organize the event, said health issues and their reforms are topics that all college students should learn.

“With the impending reform of health care, we figured this would be most pertinent to college students because ultimately this could affect them,” she said.