By WENDY PARKULO / Staff Writer
On November 8th an important issue will be on the ballot for a second time in Florida: the legalization of medical marijuana. This endeavor was nearly accomplished two years ago in 2014 but missed the 60% approval necessary to be made law by just over two percent. The group, People for Medical Marijuana, is determined to not see a repeat failure. They overhauled the bill, changing much of the wording and increasing specificity by including a list of approved medical conditions that the marijuana will be able to be used for if passed. The most major change made was the name. Ben Pollara, a member of the proponent group, stated “Our opposition and the Supreme Court said it was too broad and perhaps confusing, now it is clear: ‘use of marijuana for debilitating medical conditions.’” Previously the bill had been titled “Medical marijuana production, possession and use” which was much more vague and did not imply its intended use for specific medical conditions. More control was also given to parents and the DOH (Department of Health) in the drug’s regulation.
Many opponents still do not believe that these changes are enough to keep communities safe from the uncontrollable expansion of marijuana. A major concern is that this may lead to de facto legalization eventually bringing a very strong, potentially dangerous substance even closer to families and communities. Another concern is that medical marijuana will not come from regulated pharmacies but instead from independent medical dispensaries so it may not be as safe as other pharmaceutical drugs. Drug Free Florida’s Dr. Jessica Spencer proclaimed, “We need to protect our communities. We need to protect our children. We need to protect our state.” There is also much discrepancy about the usefulness of marijuana to treat chronic pain and illnesses. Very little clinical research has been conducted, in large part because of the fact that the substance is illegal, and much of the support comes from patient testimony making it very difficult to distinguish facts from opinions. However, of the clinical trials that do exist most of them reveal cannabis to display some sort of therapeutic value.
Though, there is a good chance that this “protection” that Drug-Free Florida hopes to preserve may be coming to an end. Several current polls show medical marijuana support being well above the required sixty percent. Victory for legalization should not be assumed yet, however because this was the case in 2014 as well, but the actual voter participation did not reflect public opinion. The outcome this year will be determined by voter turnout, particularly the turnout of younger voters who tend to support legalization. The fact that this is a presidential election year means that generally more voters will come to the polls which may bode well for amendment 2. “The only issue the presidential candidates agree on this year is that medical marijuana should be legal,” according to a major financial supporter of the legalization effort, John Morgan, “If that doesn’t say something about the times we’re in and the tipping point moment we’re having in Florida, nothing else does.” Twenty-five states currently have some form of legality for marijuana in their laws and Florida could very well become number twenty-six. In less than a month, voters will decide, whether or not an estimated 450,000 Floridians will have access to this drug. Regardless of your opinion, if you do not vote your voice will not be heard. Information for voting in Leon County can be obtained here and if you would like to look over the details of amendment 2 they can be found here.