Florida voters will have the chance to vote “yes” or “no” on Amendment 2, which covers the issue the issue of medical marijuana, this November 4th. If passed, Florida will join 23 other states and the District of Columbia who have legalized the use of medical marijuana. The vastly divergent arguments which are swirling around this issue may leave many Floridians confused and uncertain as to which way they should vote. On one side, proponents of the legalization of medical marijuana in the Sunshine State claim that, if passed, desperately ill residents will now have access to a medication which has been shown to alleviate suffering.
Those on the other side of the medical marijuana debate are certain that allowing the legalization of medical marijuana will pave the way for full-blown legalization of the drug as well as making it a relatively simple process for minors to obtain the drug. Further, those against the passage of Amendment 2 believe if passed marijuana dispensaries would soon give fast food joints a run for their money by having one on every corner. Orlando lawyer, John Morgan, and Polk County Sheriff, Grady Judd, are the primary voices for the pros and cons of the passage of Amendment 2. The two men recently squared off in a nearly hour long informal debate on CBS WKMG-6 in Orlando.
The Arguments against Legalization of Medical Marijuana in Florida
As the voice for those staunchly against the legalization of medical marijuana, Sheriff Judd believes the Amendment is nothing more than the first step to full-blown legalization of marijuana, following in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State. Sheriff Judd believes that smoked marijuana is not medicinal—period. Judd is so passionate about his beliefs regarding Amendment 2 that he has hitched his wagon to the Drug Free Florida Committee, and has taken part in an ad campaign with a slogan of “Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot.”
Sheriff Judd points to the state of California often during the debate. Judd claims California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, and since that time the loose regulatory system allows nearly anyone to receive a prescription for the vaguest of ailments, purchasing the drug at one of the many dispensaries across the state. Basing his figures on the per capita number of medical marijuana dispensaries in Orange County, CA, Sheriff Judd believes legalization of medical marijuana in Florida would result in over 50 dispensaries in Polk County alone. Judd also makes the claim (often) that if Amendment 2 passes, teens and children will be purchasing the drug without their parents’ consent.
The Advantages of Legalizing Medical Marijuana in the Florida
Lawyer John Morgan believes Sheriff’s Judd’s arguments simply lack the facts to back them up. The language of Amendment 2 states that marijuana will be used “for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.” Morgan has faith in Florida doctors, believing they are fully cognizant of the definition of “debilitating disease,” and will not randomly prescribe the drug for, say, a patient with a backache. As for likening Florida’s potential outcome to that of California, Morgan calls Judd’s arguments nothing more than scare tactics. Morgan points to the overwhelmingly positive results of the other states—aside from California—which have legalized medical marijuana. Morgan believes that rather than focusing on California, Judd should take a hard look at Arizona, or any of the other states which, from all accounts, have made the legalization of marijuana work well. Morgan scoffs at Judd’s claim that teens and children will be securing the drug, saying he doesn’t know if Judd’s children go to the doctor alone, but his own—as well as most other teens and children—do not.
Primary Disagreement Between the Two Sides
In short, those who are against the legalization of medical marijuana in the state of Florida believe the amendment is a disguised bid for full-blown legalization of marijuana in the future. This group believes there is little scientific evidence to back the claimed medicinal value of marijuana. The proponents of Amendment 2 see no reason to believe Florida will follow in Colorado’s footsteps to legalize recreational marijuana, and believe they are two very separate issues. Legalization of recreational marijuana in the state of Florida would require another ballot measure—or an act of Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature—neither of which are very likely.
Facts Regarding Amendment 2
A survey taken in the state just last July showed that a whopping 88% of Floridians support the legalization of medical marijuana. Florida requires only a 60% approval in order to pass. If passed, Amendment 2 would charge the Florida Department of Health with regulating growers and dispensaries. The Department of Health would also set up an identification system for patients and caregivers in order to track and retain control over dispensation of the drug. The full text of Amendment 2, describes debilitating medical conditions as: cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and other conditions for which a Florida physician believes the benefits of prescribing medical marijuana would far outweigh any potential health risks.
What Do Florida Physicians Think About the Medical Marijuana Issue?
Dr. Sergio Seoane, a family practitioner in Lakeland, disagrees with Lawyer John Morgan and likens the term “medical marijuana,” to “medical alcohol.” Seoane says that while having a drink of whisky might, in fact, have some physiological effect, he would not prescribe a glass of whisky as a medical prescription. Seoane further claims that the evidence for marijuana as a medical therapy is poor. Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos, a professor of neurology at the University of South Florida believes it is all but impossible to determine whether medicinal marijuana is beneficial due to the drug’s classification since 1970 as a Schedule 1 drug. The designation of a Schedule 1 drug is one which has no medicinal value—and has a high potential for abuse.
Sanchez-Ramos says he has seen firsthand the benefits of medical marijuana through following patients who took part in The Compassionate Investigational New Drug Study program which was discontinued in 1992. Sanchez-Ramos points to the fact that an oral cannabis spray has been approved for use in Canada and 23 other countries to successfully treat neuropathy and muscle spasms. Another Florida physician, Dr. Alan Gasner, expressed his surprise that the Florida Medical Association opposes Amendment 2. Gasner is fully behind the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida and believes there are results backed by science which support the beneficial effects of the drug. Gasner states that he personally would prescribe the drug for patients with such conditions as cancer, lung disease, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
The “Drug Dealer Loophole”
Sheriff Judd claims that because caregivers would be allowed to purchase medicinal marijuana for patients, virtually anyone could become a caregiver and obtain marijuana for others. The language of the Amendment allows caregivers who are at least 21 years old to purchase medical marijuana for up to five qualifying patients. Judd calls this the “drug dealer loophole,” and believes it will turn Florida into a state which allows full-blown recreational use of the drug. Judd also believes that if Amendment 2 passes, more Floridians will drive while impaired. In short, Judd claims that the wording of Amendment 2 simply offers too many loopholes and that “the devil is in the details.” Whatever the eventual outcome, it is a sure bet that residents of Florida will be subjected to a plethora of campaign ads for and against the passage of Amendment 2 between now and November 4th.
You can watch the entire medical marijuana debate between John Morgan and Grady Judd Below: