Legalizing Medical Marijuana in Florida

As the law stands, possession of marijuana in Florida is a crime.  It is October, and Florida’s drug laws prohibit the possession of marijuana for any purpose.  This includes marijuana used to help those with certain medical conditions.  Florida voters could change this in November.  Less than a year ago, Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi, adamantly opposed allowing Amendment 2 to make it to the ballot.  Even then, people were collecting petitions seeking to put Amendment 2 on the ballot in November 2014 (Read Medical Marijuana Support in Jacksonville FL on the Jacksonville Lawyers website for the entire article).  Those supporting Amendment 2 cleared a huge legal hurdle when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Amendment 2 would be on the ballot for voters to make a decision (Read Florida Supreme Court Approves Medical Marijuana for more information).  Over the past year, many polls have shown the Floridians support the legalization of medicinal marijuana, but have things changed?  A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times reported:

Jacksonville Drug Attorney

Marijuana: Illegal Drug or Medicine?

“For more than a year, the amendment seemed to enjoy broad support, cutting across political, racial and age lines. But with opposition forces financing TV ads and sheriffs showing up at forums, support for the amendment has slipped dramatically, according to a new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/UF Bob Graham Center poll. Only 48 percent of likely voters said they would vote for Amendment 2. Forty-four percent oppose it and 7 percent said they had not made up their minds. The requirement that it pass by a 60 percent vote now represents an imposing hurdle…. Just six weeks ago, the Times partnerpoll found a much different result, with 57 percent saying they would vote in favorand only 24 percent saying no. That poll gave the option of ‘Haven’t thought much about this,’ which yielded a large group of undecided voters — about 17 percent. With 44 percent of likely voters now polling against, opponents may block the amendment even if they do not attract a single remaining undecided voter.”

As a Duval County criminal lawyer and Jacksonville juvenile attorney, I see both sides of the issue.  I have represented many people that have a Florida criminal record for being caught with a small amount of pot.  I have also spoken with parents concerned with their children casually accepting the use of marijuana as if it were not a drug.  Today, there was a First Coast News article discussing the opposition to Amendment 2.  This article explains what Florida voters fear about the passing of Amendment 2:

“If you talk to those opposing legalizing medical marijuana, the future looks pretty grim. ‘You’re gonna have people smoking this stuff in front of Starbucks and you’re gonna walk through a marijuana cloud as you’re walking into Starbucks,’ said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. Gualtieri is the head of the Florida Sheriffs Association legislative committee. He and others against legalizing medical marijuana have a few big fears. The first, ‘they’re nothing more than drug dealers wearing white coats,’ he said. If Amendment 2 passes they think it will bring on another rash of pill-mill style ‘pot docs’ just looking to make a buck.”

There are people that believe that Gualtieri’s claim is unfounded.  A Stetson University College of Law Professor and medical doctor pointed out a problem with this rationale.  He pointed out that doctors would be at risk of losing their medical licenses if they do not treat medicinal marijuana treatments seriously.  “Levine said in order to certify a patient needs medical marijuana, the Florida Department of Health will most likely require doctors to register as providers. They already do for low THC marijuana products that were legalized in Florida this year.”

 

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