Marijuana Amendment on The Bubble of Approval
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Marijuana Amendment on The Bubble of Approval
Posted by CN Staff on September 28, 2014 at 06:50:46 PT
By Karl Etters, Tallahassee Democrat
Source: Tallahassee Democrat
Tallahassee -- Florida's pending constitutional amendment that could allow the sale, purchase and use of medical marijuana is on the bubble of the voter support needed in November for it to be approved.The 75-word Amendment 2 question asks voters decide if individuals with debilitating diseases may get medical marijuana from a licensed Florida physician. To pass, it needs 60 percent of voters.
Those in favor of the measure championed by People United for Medical Marijuana, the organization that sparked the statewide petition drive to put the proposed amendment on the ballot, say the measure is a step toward compassion and relief for patients. Supporters argue patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV-AIDS, ALS and a host of other diseases would benefit from the plant, along with "other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient."Opponents say the proposal's language is too broad, leaving an open door for pseudo-legalization based on the opinion of a doctor. They also say loopholes about age and residency requirements along with flawed caregiver guidelines make it bad business for the state.Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia now allow the use of marijuana in some form. Oregon and Alaska will vote to approve recreational use of marijuana this year after voters in Colorado and Washington state did so in 2012.Only California and Massachusetts offer physicians the authority to determine the need for medical marijuana without approval from the state.A July Quinnipiac poll showed Florida voter support for Amendment 2 near 90 percent, but that has dipped to the mid-60s as Election Day draws nearer. An automated telephone poll this month by Public Policy Polling found support at 61 percent when voters were asked if they would vote for or against the measure.Campaign chair of United for Care Ben Pollara said even with polling near the 60-percent minimum, he feels confident voters will side with compassion."Support for this has been remarkably consistent," Pollara said. "And it speaks to the fact that this is not that controversial for most Floridians."A poll conducted for United for Care and released Monday showed 69 percent approval. It is the fourth internal poll the organization has conducted.Opponents have gained influential partners in opposition with the Florida Sheriff's Association, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush joining the Don't Let Florida Go to Pot movement.In addition, the Florida Medical Association, which represents more than 20,000 doctors in the state, joined almost a dozen other medical organizations in strong opposition to the amendment citing the "unintended consequences" that could constitute a public health risk in Florida if the it passes.Vote No on 2 campaign spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said if the writers of the amendment were interested in providing compassionate medical care, the text of the measure would have been worded differently."This isn't about the sick," Bascom said. "We don't believe this amendment was written for those who have debilitating disease. It's pot for anyone for any reason and when it's in the constitution, it'll supersede other laws."Drug Free Florida has spearheaded the opposition campaign working with Don't Let Florida Go to Pot and have highlighted what they say are problems in other states' programs to the budding system in Florida."It is our goal that even up to the Election Day," said Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger on behalf of the Florida Sheriff's Associaiton Thursday. "This coalition will continue to educate Floridians of the ill effects of edible products as well as the flawed terrible amendment to our constitution."Eslinger pointed to incidents in other states where children, some as young as 3 years old, consumed edible marijuana products that seemed like treats to them and needed medical attention as a consequence.Pollara said Florida's approach has been to develop an amendment that takes bits of legislation from established programs with the aim of building a Florida-tailored system with focus on patient access. Opponents are misleading themselves, he added."Their basic tack has been to mislead voters about the intent of this amendment and disrespect the intelligence of Florida voters," Pollara said. "Their core position is about legalizing marijuana, when it is plainly about medical marijuana. The people of Florida are smarter than that."The Florida Department of Health, which would administer the program if the amendment passes, has estimated the base number of patients who might be prescribed medical marijuana at around 450,000 users.That potential, mainly law enforcement and Department of Highway safety and Motor Vehicles increases, is based on data from other states and has not been quantified in Florida, leaving the financial impact of the amendment undetermined.State regulators estimate $1.1 million in startup and annual costs. Those costs are expected to be recovered through fees on dispensaries, doctors and patients.There exists no system to provide potential patients access to the marijuana. Florida is on the cusp of approving rules to supply patients with extracts from a non-euphoric strain of marijuana and there have been hints state regulators may use that as a model for Amendment 2.Since 2006, Florida constitutional amendments have required 60 percent approval for passage. The higher bar for approval has made a difference in what's put before voters, said Florida State University political science professor Carol Weissert."It's really put the kibosh on some of these strange provisions," she said. "But, the other thing to remember is a number of states have medical marijuana, so we're not leaders in this area at all."A poll this week by SurveyUSA/WFLA showed 53 percent support when voters were asked if they would "vote for Amendment 2, to legalize medical marijuana in Florida," with 15 percent undecided. It is the lowest polling data has dipped, and leaves the measure in the 10 percent bubble between majority approval and the necessary three-fifths to pass.Bascom said the days until Election Day will be decisive. No on 2 has taken to educating voters about what the amendment is and what it isn't."The reason why you are starting to see the numbers shift is they are having to answer questions about the loopholes," she said.Pollara said even with close margins, he feels confident."Sixty percent is always a challenge no matter what the issue is," he said.The amendment has become a battleground for cash as much as it is for public opinion with large donations marking the year-long journey to get it on the ballot.People United for Medical Marijuana political action committee has drawn more than $6.1 million in contributions and loans and has spent more than $5 million.The largest chunk of money and public face of support for the amendment has come from Orlando powerhouse lawyer John Morgan who through 17 contributions, both by himself and through his law firm, has donated $3.8 million.Morgan has been crisscrossing the state recently debating opponents on the measure and urging people to vote in favor of compassion.The Drug Free Florida Committee, has raised more than $3.2 million, and spent $587,000 –most recently Sept. 12 on a $42,689 advertising campaign. The largest chunk of money against the measure has come from Las Vegas gambling mogul and Republican contributor Sheldon Adelson who has donated $2.5 million so far.A $1.6 million ad campaign from No on 2 is slated to run the first week of October and will highlight what it calls a "flawed" attempt at changing the constitution.Pollara said the amendment is well thought out and, if passed, leaves a solid platform for the state to get patients the help they need."There's not a thing in the amendment that is a poison pill that won't allow the state to put this in place in a productive way," he said. "This is not a policy experiment. Almost half the country has done this. There's nothing brand new in Amendment 2 where we'll look later and say, 'Wow we shouldn't have done that.'"This is the amendment language that will appear on the Nov.4 ballotUse of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions: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. Increased costs from this amendment to state and local governments cannot be determined. There will be additional regulatory and enforcement activities associated with the production and sale of medical marijuana. Fees will offset at least a portion of the regulatory costs. While sales tax may apply to purchases, changes in revenue cannot reasonably be determined since the extent to which medical marijuana will be exempt from taxation is unclear without legislative or state administrative action.Source: Tallahassee Democrat (FL)Author: Karl Etters, Tallahassee DemocratPublished: September 26, 2014Copyright: 2014 Tallahassee DemocratContact: tdedit taldem.comURL: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on September 28, 2014 at 07:50:58 PT
Amendment 2 and the God-given plant.
Loopholes already exist, such as people using cannabis who wish to do so already do.Amendment 2 simply allows law abiding sick citizens the ability to use the God-given plant with less or no fear from overzealous police / government.The loophole which will end is the one where police and their unions cage a sick citizen who may be going through chemo and wishes to use this relatively safe plant along with or instead of the very harsh pharm meds.Of all the people who should support RE-legalizing medical use of cannabis it is the older population for they will benefit greatly.
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