Please, let’s ensure medical marijuana law isn’t exploited by potheads

Medical marijuana should be limited to what Florida voters approved.
Medical marijuana should be limited to what Florida voters approved. Getty Images

While the Drug Free America Foundation opposed Amendment 2 — the Florida ballot item called, “Use of medical marijuana for debilitating conditions — for a number of specific reasons, we recognize that the state’s voters have spoken. We also recognize that lawmakers soon will be crafting the implementing language that will dictate policy for generations to come.

We urge them to exercise extreme caution moving forward.

As we see in states such as Colorado and California, measures intended to open the door just a little have, in reality, open it far too wide. Because marijuana is subject to abuse, has a robust black market and is the drug of choice for too many of our nation’s youth, the market will rapidly and dramatically take advantage of every loophole that can be exploited.

While California’s law, passed a few years ago, was similarly promoted as allowing only “medical” use of marijuana, it has been so completely exploited that, today, someone flying into the state can claim an illness (without needing to see a physician in person) and have a medical marijuana card sent to a smartphone before even stepping off the plane. This was not voters’ intent, and anyone honestly watching what is happening out there must admit that it is nothing short of a scam.

That is why Florida lawmakers should take heed of the California example and be cautious in implementing Amendment 2. It was promoted as relief for only the sickest of Floridians who — in conjunction with their physician — could be offered what was promoted as a safe and highly regulated product. During the campaign, we heard from the amendment’s supporters that marijuana is a medicine and should be made available as an option to the “very sick.” The ballot language itself itemized many of the “debilitating medical conditions” that would qualify a patient. It is wrong for them to now push to liberalize and dramatically expand the use of this drug.

Further, for some to now suggest that Florida should loosen the protections and safeguards put in law in the last few years and allow a plethora of unregulated growers, eliminate special training for doctors or even treat the distribution of this “medicine” like we do craft beer, flies in the face of this promise and could result in Florida becoming the California of the east.

Right now, Florida law allows seven large nurseries to grow marijuana, and as soon as we reach 250,000 patients, three more licenses to grow and dispense will be issued. These highly regulated growers will have far more capacity than is needed for the foreseeable future. Further expansion would create an undue burden onregulator. Finally, Floridians do not want thousands of “pot shops” throughout their communities.

We ask lawmakers to proceed with caution, recognize that the for-profit marijuana industry will exploit loopholes and keep treating marijuana as a dangerous drug that requires strict safeguards and controls. It appears that the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use is on the right track with a measured, conservative approach with rules and regulations that will safeguard our quality of life in Florida and help to mitigate the damages that could occur from Amendment 2’s passage. I hope that they will continue along this path and be supported by the Legislature.

Calvina Fay is the executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation.