Politics

Marc Caputo: Florida Chief Justice Ricky Polston has a case of reefer madness

 

mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com

Someone, get a doctor.

The chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court caught a case of reefer madness.

The malady revealed itself in Justice Ricky Polston’s Monday dissent to the court’s 4-3 decision to allow voters to decide a proposed medical-marijuana constitutional amendment in November.

As if hallucinating, Polston warned about the risk of pot-smoking toddlers.

“A physician, in his misguided ‘professional opinion,’ could believe that the benefits of marijuana for a teething toddler would likely outweigh the risks and, therefore, recommend that the toddler use marijuana three times a day for six months or until the teething subsided,” the justice wrote.

You know what’s next: the Grateful Dead and black lights at day care.

His absurd example aside, Polston’s dissent broadly ignored the logic and effect of the court’s majority ruling. It said the amendment is for “debilitating medical conditions” similar to nine listed ailments: cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Crohn‘s disease, Parkinson‘s disease and multiple sclerosis.

The majority opinion essentially creates legal doctrine in this case. The verdict: The amendment isn’t for minor maladies. It’s for serious ailments.

Before the court ruled, the amendment was more open to interpretation because it said a physician could also recommend marijuana for “other conditions.”

Opponents, led by Attorney General Pam Bondi, said those “other conditions” could include small ailments. The court found otherwise. But Polston parroted Bondi.

Polston is right that the amendment could have been better written. And there are legitimate concerns about medical marijuana.

But the credibility of Polston’s dissent is undermined by its imagery that is a throwback to the anti-drug-crusaders of the 1930s, when pot was made illegal and the movie Reefer Madness was released to show the dangers of demon weed on youth.

Nowadays, some kids are the face of medical marijuana advocacy — at least when it comes to a strain called “Charlotte’s Web,” which can help children who suffer from severe epilepsy.

Strange that Polston failed to mention those epileptic kids, eh?

Polston also dismissed other language in the amendment that specifically said a physician would have to recommend marijuana for a “debilitating medical condition.”

Along with justices Charles Canady and Jorge Labarga, Polston also made much of the fact that the ballot summary says medical marijuana is for debilitating “diseases” while the amendment text says it’s for debilitating “conditions.”

But the majority said that, in this case, the words are synonymous. They also faulted Polston’s reasoning.

“This entirely misses the point!” Polston responded, his exclamation point seeming to shout “I’m not crazy!”

Too bad he didn’t use ALL CAPS to drive his point home.

So one more time: Under the amendment and the court’s opinion, Florida’s medical marijuana proposal is for truly “debilitating” ailments. Sore knees, minor stress and toothaches just don’t make the cut.

A willful ignorance of the facts can’t be considered a “debilitating medical condition,” either. If so, Justice Polston might consider getting a prescription.

Read more Marc Caputo stories from the Miami Herald

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