Florida’s Getting the Munchies

BY LAUREN ASTIGARRAGA — A divided Supreme Court ruled that the ballot language for the proposed constitutional amendment approving the sale of medical marijuana in Florida met all legal requirements.[1] The amendment will appear on the upcoming November ballot. If at least 60 percent of voters agree, Florida could become the first Southern state to legalize use of marijuana for health-related reasons. Here is the language of that will appear on the November ballot:

Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions

Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allow caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not authorize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.[2]

Attorney General Pam Bondi and other opponents argue the amendment’s language is confusing.[3] The language seemingly only allows for marijuana use for diseases, but in fact any medical condition approved by a Florida physician would qualify for the prescribed legal use of marijuana.[4] In his dissent, Chief Justice Ricky Polston had a similar concern, writing that even someone with test anxiety could qualify for a medical marijuana prescription.[5] The majority obviously disagreed and felt that the ballot language gave voters a “fair notice as to the chief purpose and scope of the proposed amendment, which is to allow a restricted use of marijuana for certain debilitating medical conditions.”[6]

If the measure passes, the Legislature would have to work out details such as how much marijuana someone could possess and how growers would be regulated.

The concept of medical marijuana has spread to 20 states and the District of Columbia since California first legalized it in 1996.[7] People with cancer, multiple sclerosis and other serious diseases say marijuana eases their plight in ways that prescription medicine cannot. An increasing body of science shows that chemical substances found in pot can, indeed, be beneficial.[8] House Speaker Will Weatherford, said he “respectfully” disagreed with the court ruling and he hoped voters would reject “this truly radical” amendment.[9] “Make no mistake: This is not about compassionate medical marijuana,” Weatherford said.[10] “This is about the Coloradofication of Florida, where the end game is a pot shop on every street corner.”[11] This reference is to Colorado’s recent passing the sale of recreational marijuana.[12] Colorado had 5 million dollars in sale in the first week alone for recreational marijuana.[13] And the state expects to make 70 million dollars in taxes this year.[14]

The November ballot could also affect the upcoming governor’s race. Florida’s current Republican Gov. Rick Scott is opposed to the measure, and released a brief statement explaining while he has empathy for people battling difficult diseases he would vote against the amendment.[15] Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist is in favor.[16] The amendment was proposed by United for Care, an advocacy group headed by Orlando attorney John Morgan, who employs Crist.[17]

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