Medical marijuana could potentially be legalized in Florida if voters pass Amendment 2 this November.
The amendment would legalize medical marijuana for those who meet specific qualifications. As November approaches, both sides are urging voters to make it out to the polls.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd warns Amendment 2 is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“The amendment is not what everyone thinks it is,” he said. “This may lead us down a road that we can’t just turn back around.”
Judd said he is not necessarily against the potential use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but this amendment is loosely written and allows for loopholes.
“I’m not a doctor or a scientist,” he said, “but there is plenty of research showing smoking marijuana can lead to more health problems.”
Judd pointed out the Florida Sheriffs Association supported “Charlotte’s Web” legislation, a 2014 bill using the nickname for a type of medicinal marijuana pill high in cannabidiol, or CBD, but low in tetrahydrocannabidiol. These types of marijuana are sometimes provided as pills to children to help treat seizures because it is a non-smoked form of the drug.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana contains more than 100 cannabinoids, a large family of chemicals related to the plant’s main psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabidiol, or THC. The mind-altering constituent helps stimulate appetite and may reduce nausea, pain, inflammation and spasticity. The other main cannabinoid of current interest is CBD, which is non-psychoactive and may be helpful in reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures as well treating psychosis and addictions.
Judd said loopholes in the amendment worry him. Specifically, the leniency of qualifications to be a care-giver, someone who can legally obtain medicinal marijuana for someone else who meets the qualifications. Judd also expressed concern about doctors being able to prescribe the drug more loosely to children.
“We can’t let brilliant lawyers draw up language like ‘other conditions’ to give doctors a blank check to write prescriptions for people suffering from chronic conditions of stress and irritability,” he said.
Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair has a similar view on the amendment’s wording and potential loopholes.
Blair said the opportunity for minors to receive medical marijuana prescriptions is not worth the potential risk of transitioning to harder drugs.
“Marijuana is addictive, and it is a gateway drug,” he said. “In almost every drug case I have seen, the drug almost everyone has started on was marijuana.”
Drugs, he said, drive crime. Even though prescription pills are legal for medicinal use, they can still end up in minors’ hands. He said the safety and well-being of the public are his main concerns.
“Potential medicine for sick and dying people is not what I am against,” Blair said. “The amendment’s language just needs to be more tightly written to avoid an increase in drug-related crime.”
However, not everyone is skeptical of the language. United for Care Director Ben Pollara said the language in the amendment was carefully chosen. United for Care is an organization in favor of legalizing medicinal marijuana.
“The Supreme Court has already decided that the language was sufficient enough,” Pollara said.
Doctors would still be held to a strict medical standard for writing prescriptions.
“Amendment 2 will allow doctors to give patients an alternate option to more addictive pain killers that may have more detrimental side effects without being looked at like drug-dealers,” he said.
Charlotte’s Web was a start, but legislators still haven’t gone far enough in, Pollara’s opinion.
John Morgan, an attorney at Morgan & Morgan and a United for Care supporter, stands with Pollara. He believes if the amendment is worded too strictly, it could kill the potential for good.
At an appearance Morgan made on Sept. 10 at The Swamp Restaurant near the University of Florida, he said the potential for medicinal purposes is there, but since marijuana is a Schedule I drug, it’s much harder to do research. Schedule I drugs have no recognized medicinal purpose and a high potential for abuse, according to the Controlled Substance Act.
Morgan said Charlotte’s Web didn’t go far enough because the bill was so tightly regulated that it never accomplished its purpose. He said the responsibility falls on the user to make sure marijuana is not abused.
“They say we’re worried about it getting to the hands of children, the same argument against the gun people,” Morgan said. “Once we pass this, lock up your medical marijuana with the guns, and kids won’t get either one of them.”
With November quickly approaching and both sides trying to drum up support, time will tell whether proponents will gain enough support in the polls or if marijuana will remain illegal.