Is Florida Ready for Medical Marijuana?

Florida’s Governor Rick Scott and other Republican leaders who oppose any relaxation of the state’s backward cannabis laws aren’t happy. Why you might ask? Well it’s because medical marijuana will be on the Florida ballot in November. They say medical use of marijuana is the first step toward Colorado-style legalization, and they might be right. They say that although the proposed constitutional amendment names only nine diseases, lots of people who aren’t really sick will find a way to get marijuana from certain doctors. That’s probably true, too. This, after all, is the state that made pill mills a roadside tourist attraction. But guess what — voters know that, and most don’t seem worried. They’ve seen what’s happened in California, where no anarchy materialized after medicinal marijuana was approved. Nor has the fabric of society disintegrated in the 20 other states and Washington, DC, where similar laws are on the books. In Florida, as is true throughout the country, public surveys continue to show landslide support for medical marijuana, and a majority favoring the decriminalization of small amounts for personal use. This is a thorny problem for conservative Republicans like Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, who are up for re-election. They now have to push forward and crusade against a popular cause, trying to stir fear and doubts among a constituency that’s heard it all before. The main force behind the medical marijuana movement is John Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney. Morgan is a major Democratic donor who is close to former governor Charlie Crist, Scott’s likely opponent in November. One would assume that having medicinal marijuana or pot on the ballot will draw more Democrats and independents to the polls, boosting Crist’s chances of beating Scott. However, the high polling popularity of the marijuana measure means lots of Republican voters like it, too. For one thing, pot really does help certain patients with glaucoma, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other serious medical conditions that don’t discriminate between liberals and conservatives. For another, marijuana isn’t some exotic mystery drug whose effects are unknown; it’s been around so long that it’s embedded in our culture — music, movies, television and literature. Smoking it is totally a bipartisan union. Tallahassee is currently controlled by Republicans, but the Capitol building would be as quiet as a library if you got rid of everyone who came to work with THC in their blood. The same is true for most big workplaces. Opponents of the marijuana amendment say the wording is too loose because it allows cannabis to be prescribed for other medical conditions besides the specified diseases — if the physician thinks the benefits outweigh the potential harm. Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston, writing for the minority in the court’s 4-3 decision that approved the ballot item, criticized a section giving doctors immunity from prosecution for prescribing marijuana. “For example, a physician, in his misguided ‘professional opinion,’ could believe that the benefits of marijuana for a teething toddler would likely outweigh the risks,” Polston said, “and, therefore, recommend that the toddler use marijuana three times a day for six months until the teething subsided.” This bizarre hypothetical assumes that the pediatrician is an incompetent psychopath, and that the parents of the toddler are knuckle-dragging morons. That’s a recurring theme of the political opposition to the medical cannabis amendment — people are just too darn naive to know what’s really happening. If you think about it logically, what would stop the same doctor from prescribing oxycodone to the same toddler, under the current laws? Yet on this subject most voters aren’t naive,...

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