In November, Florida voters will be asked if they want to give people the right to sell, purchase and use medical marijuana. At face value, most who have grown up in the era of rock concerts and bong-ridden college dorms — and suffered through the hysterical claims some of our parents made against the use of marijuana — the answer to the pot polemic is a no-brainer: Of course, marijuana should be legal for medical use.
However, when one takes a deeper look at the constitutional amendment and sifts through the hype and half-truths about the drug’s proposed dispensation process, the little information and details offered make the decision less than an easy slam-dunk.
As usual, the ballot question put to voters is vague. The question states that Amendment 2 “allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.”
At a quick glance (which is generally what most people give these questions in the voting booth) this statement would lead one to assume that “determined by a licensed Florida physician” means that doctors would write prescriptions for patients suffering from debilitating diseases. But in reality, prescriptions would not be required, but rather a doctor’s recommendation, which is a determination from a physician that an individual suffers from a chronic illness that can be helped by the use of marijuana. The amount of the weed dispensed to users is handled by a “caregiver” who will be registered with the state but, strangely enough, will not be required to have any medical expertise or training, or pass a criminal background check.
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Perhaps the most disturbing component of the amendment relates to the issue of liability. No one in the pot distribution chain can or will be held liable for any mishaps. Essentially, this erases any patient protections that the current checks and balances of our legal system offer. Doctors who “mis-recommend” or caregivers who are in any form negligent in the sale of the marijuana are not subject to prosecution. This unquestionably is an irresponsible omission.
Flawed as it may be, the amendment, if passed, will be written in stone in the Florida Constitution, in stark contrast to a law passed legislatively that can be tweaked or amended.
There is little doubt that medical marijuana helps many chronically ill people, but the crux of this debate has more to do with money that the business of legal marijuana will generate than it does with caring about the sick. If you follow the money behind the pro-pot campaign you will find that it leads back to some of the state’s deepest pockets. Many have already prepared their pot-dispensing arsenal in anticipation of the amendment passing.
There is also a significant correlation between the large funders behind the legalization of medical pot and the Democratic Party. Political analysts across the state speculate that the push to put Amendment 2 on the November ballot is an effort to draw younger voters to the polling booth in an effort to better Charlie Crist’s chances in his bid for governor. Sadly for the Dems, this strategy seems to be going up in smoke, as the latest polls indicate Crist (who was a hardliner against pot grow houses when he was a Republican governor and has apparently flip-flopped on the issue as a Democrat) has lost a double-digit lead in the polls and is now trailing incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. The Democrats seem to be successfully snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Amendment 2 lacks the legal details and parameters that would make the sale of medical marijuana something Florida voters could easily rally around. Instead, the proposed amendment seems to focus on a permanent legal framework that clears a very lucrative path for a select group of investors.