Florida’s Amendment 2, the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, is currently on the ballot, and its passage would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. Florida is the only U.S. state with a medical cannabis amendment on the ballot this November 4th, and if at least 60% of Floridians vote YES on 2, it will be the first state southern state to legalize cannabis as medicine.Passage of Amendment 2 will legalize only the medicinal use, and not the recreational use, of cannabis.
Amendment 2 “allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows 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.”
Where Amendment 2 Currently Stands
While a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in summer 2014 found that 88% of Florida voters support the legalization of medical marijuana, a more recent poll conducted by Schroth Eldon & Associates (SEA), a Democratic firm, found that 59% of people plan to vote “Yes” on 2, while only 32% plan to vote “No”.
While “Yes” votes have increased since the two SEA polls prior to the current one (which found 48% and 50% support for Amendment 2), 60% of voters must vote “Yes” in order for the amendment to pass.
Funding for the Campaign
Interestingly, a recent Washington Post article shows that the “Yes on 2″ campaign has been funded approximately 91% in-state, while only 15% of the “No on 2″ campaign has been funded in-state (85% of the “No” campaign has been funded by billionaire and casino-owner Sheldon Adelson). This is a strong indication that most Floridians want medical cannabis legalized. As of October 29, 2014, the “Yes” campaign has raised $7,812,024 to garner support, while the “No” campaign raised $5,848,932. However, funding means nothing if Floridians don’t get out and vote.
Isn’t Medical Marijuana Already Legal in Florida?
One form of medical cannabis is legal in FL currently. In June 2014, Governor Rick Scott of FLsigned a bill into law which will allow for the use of high CBD/low THC cannabis oil (termed “Charlotte’s Web”, name after Charlotte Figi, a young girl in Colorado who has experienced a major improvement in her treatment-resistant epilepsy, a result of Dravet’s syndrome, with the use of the oil) in Florida State. High CBD/low THC cannabis oil is ingested, not smoked, and does not produce intoxication. While more research is needed to examine the objective medical efficacy of high CBD/low THC oil, many case studies and preliminary data show improvements for some patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy with the use of this strain’s oil.
However, high CBD/low THC oil will not benefit all patients, such as those with symptoms which can be soothed by the use of strains of cannabis with higher levels of THC. According to the Miami Herald’s endorsement for Amendment 2, “Florida is at this juncture because state lawmakers didn’t do their jobs. They ignored medical marijuana completely until it looked like it would pass. They then passed a scaled-back law, Charlotte’s Web, that essentially will help no one with AIDS, cancer or ALS and was done almost exclusively to make it look like lawmakers care.”
Long story short, if Amendment 2 doesn’t pass, only a very limited number of patients in Florida with a very limited set of conditions will benefit from the potential of cannabis as medicine.
Some of the arguments opponents to Amendment 2 have are that the amendment is vague, has too many loopholes, and that this is an issue that the Florida legislature should decide upon. However, according to Florida Today’s endorsement of Amendment 2, “[W]e’ve heard some imaginative criticisms of [Amendment 2], including alleged loopholes that would allow doctors to prescribe pot for hangnails or let drug dealers deliver cannabis to schoolchildren. Concerned, we scoured the full language and history of the proposed amendment and — like the Florida Supreme Court — found it to be straightforward and carefully written. We also reviewed large-scale studies from the 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana. That research shows warnings about crime, addiction and youth drug use are overblown and contrary to experience in places like California.”
The “No on 2″ campaign has been a formidable opponent to pro-medical cannabis advocates. Some of the leaders in the “No” campaign have been certain law enforcement officials. In a debate, one such leading sheriff claimed that the legalization of cannabis for medical use is being supported “because people want to sit around on a Saturday night with the strobe lights on and Cheech and Chong playing and smoke their pot”.
However, some proponents of Amendment 2 wonder about the motives of law enforcement in limiting the use of cannabis as medicine. Some argue that the motive is desire to maintain profits from “federal anti-drug money and property forfeitures” which drives pro-”No On 2″ law officials.According to Ray Strack, who worked as a U.S. Customs special agent for 27 years, “More recently, federal officials froze nearly $30 million that had been seized by police in… Bal Harbo[u]r [, FL]… after the department was found spending … [forfeiture] money on a $100,000 35-foot boat with three Mercury outboards, a $7,000 police chiefs’ banquet, a $15,000 laser virtual firing range and an “anti-drug beach bash,” with a reported price tag of $21,000… Law enforcement should be about protecting the public, not pocketing profits. The Niagara of forfeited money flowing into sheriffs’ offices and police departments … has blinded some law-enforcement administrators to the compassionate benefits of medical marijuana.” For a humorous yet unnerving summary of civil forfeiture, please see John Oliver’s recent segment on civil forfeiture on ”Last Week Tonight”.
The Physician Voice for “No”
The leading physician voice for the “No on 2″ movement is Madelyn Butler, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Tampa, FL and a former president of the Florida Medical Association. The “No” campaign released an ad in recent weeks featuring Dr. Butler, a physician with a history of an approximately 8-year lawsuit which resulted in a $3,000,000 settlement paid out by her insurance company as the result of a failed abortion, performed by her, that led to the birth of a blind infant who failed to develop limbs.
According to a recent television report on Dr. Butler’s spotty history, “It is her credibility as a long-time doctor that the ad leans on… [the case file of the lawsuit showed] missed ultrasound, missed diagnosis, and a poor level of care…” According to Dr. Rick Foglesong, a political analyst for WFTV in Florida, “The believability of this ad depends upon the credibility of the speaker.” The reporter covering the story also stated that according to Dr. Fogleson, “while the doctor’s license and credentials are not in question, her past is open to public examination…” With a history of such a severe medical error as this, it is questionable whether voters should take this physician’s word for how to best handle medical care.
According to United for Care, the leading organization working for passage of Amendment 2, this is going to be a very close race. So what can you do to help pass Amendment 2?
If you are a Florida resident, VOTE. Early voting ends today, November 1st, and polls will close at the end of the day on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014. Also, it is essential that you encourage your friends and family to vote YES, too. If you’d like to contribute more, contact United for Care and tell them you’d like to help by volunteering.
Not a Floridian? You can still help! Encourage your family and friends who live in Florida to vote.
You can also tweet using #YesOn2 to spread the word. Every vote counts!
As William E. Simon said, “Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote”, and the same sentiment applies to bad laws.
Please vote #YesOn2 and spread the word!