On Nov. 8, Floridians will have the opportunity to vote yes or no on Amendment 2, the initiated constitutional amendment for medical marijuana
Amendment 2 is one of the most heavily debated issues in this Florida this election year. This is the second time the amendment will appear on Sunshine State ballots.
In 2014, the amendment received nearly 58 percent support, but failed to obtain the minimum 60 percent supermajority required by the Florida’s state constitution.
It missed the mark by 139,000 votes.
The official ballot name of the amendment is “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions.” According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s website, the amendment will “allow medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician.” It will also “allow caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana.”
According to the website, “the Department of Health will register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and will issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. This applies only to Florida law, and does not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.”
A “yes” vote supports legalizing medical marijuana for people with specific debilitating diseases or comparable conditions as determined by a licensed state physician. Conditions include, but are not limited to, HIV/AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, PTSD and glaucoma.
If passed, Amendment 2 would also let those same licensed physicians certify Florida patients for medical marijuana use after diagnosing them with “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated.”
A “no” vote would keep the state’s current medical marijuana program as is.
Both the 2014 and 2016 versions of the bill were measures constructed to legalize the herb for medicinal purposes. However, this year’s efforts are not entirely identical to that of two years ago.
The 2016 version is clearer on parental consent for medical marijuana use by minors. In addition, it is more specific on the “debilitating” conditions that qualify patients for treatment.
This year’s amendment also looks out for shady doctors by declaring that they will still face punishment for malpractice and negligent prescribing practices.
Orlando attorney John Morgan is constantly on radio commercials pushing for the amendment to pass. He is the largest donor and supporter of the amendment and has contributed over $2 million to the cause.
Morgan is the chairman of People United for Medical Marijuana, the group leading the “Yes on 2” campaign. As of Sept. 21, People United for Medical Marijuana had received a total of $3,988,512.12 in contributions for the 2016 election.
The group also oversees the United for Care campaign, led by campaign manager and attorney Ben Pollara.
According to United for Care’s website,“studies show that many patients suffering with HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, cancer and chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and other debilitating illnesses find that marijuana provides relief from their symptoms.”
United for Care feels that traditional prescription drugs do more harm than good thanks to “serious” side effects.
The organization argues that smoking or vaporizing medical marijuana is a more effective delivery method than swallowing pills for most patients. The group suggests that the plant works immediately, dosages may be easier to control and has no way of being thrown up by patients.
They also contended that “cocaine, morphine, and methamphetamine may all be legally administered to patients — so why not marijuana, which has a far lower rate of dependency and for which there has never been a recorded overdose.”
“The Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions ballot initiative is about compassion and quality of care for patients,” said Martha Baker, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1991.
“There are hundreds of thousands of very sick Floridians who will find relief due to this comprehensive proposal.”
She pointed out that 24 other states have similar laws. Baker is a support of United for Care, saying the organization “is doing the right thing for Florida by bringing this issue to the voters.”
Amendment 2 faces opposition from the group Vote No On 2. Opponents include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Drug Free Florida Committee, the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition and the Florida Medical Association.
As of Sept. 21, the Drug Free Florida Committee had received $2,862,811.00 in contributions, with $1 million coming from former US ambassador to Italy, Mel Sembler. Sembler was the top contributor for opposition in 2014.
The organization’s website, VoteNoOn2.org, states that “Amendment 2 is not designed to help the sick. Amendment 2 is designed to legalize pot smoking in Florida.”
It claims that the amendment “doesn’t have a local option to allow communities to decide where or how many pot shops they want. It places no restrictions on the location of seedy pot shops.”
Vote No on 2 compares the measure to controversial pill mills. They group said that“pot shops [will] spring up in your neighborhood shopping center [like] Florida’s infamous pill mills.”
The organization says those prescribing the medical marijuana are not legal doctors, but rather, drug dealers. It says these people have no pharmaceutical medication and call them “budtenders.” The opponents say they do not prescribe, but instead offer “flimsy” recommendations.
“In a pot shop, no medical training is necessary because pot isn’t medicine,” according to the organization’s website wrote.
To let your voice be heard on this controversial matter, be sure to head to your designated polling location on Nov. 8.
For more information, you can go to either position’s websites, or FloridaPolitics.com.
Photo © Bogden / Wikimedia Commons