Florida marijuana amendment proposal rife with flaws, bad impacts

CommentaryOctober 27, 2013 

The Manatee County Substance Abuse Coalition agrees with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi that the political committee People United for Medical Marijuana's proposed initiative petition being spearheaded by attorney John Morgan to amend the Florida Constitution is seriously flawed and would have a profoundly negative impact on the state of Florida.

Our concerns include:

• The proposal does not convey its true meaning and ramifications.

• The sponsor obscures the most fundamental issue underlying its proposal: the nature and scope of marijuana use the amendment would allow.

• The title and summary suggest the amendment would allow medical marijuana in narrow, defined circumstances, and only for patients with "debilitating diseases." But if the amendment passes, Florida law would allow marijuana in limitless situations.

• Any physician could approve marijuana for seemingly any reason to seemingly any person (of any age) -- including those without "debilitating diseases."

• Rather than informing voters that federal criminal law restricts medical marijuana, the ballot summary misleadingly suggests the opposite.

We have reviewed this document and also have grave concerns about the loopholes that create the possibility of replacing pill mills with pot shops.

Anyone wishing a copy can email me at skramer@drugfreemanatee.org, and I will provide a copy of the proposed amendment.

MCSAC believes that once Floridians are provided with clear, correct information, they will prove to be smarter than the political committee and John Morgan realize.

We need to protect our Constitution, the foundation document meant to provide for our basic rights and organization of government.

As the Florida Chamber of Commerce noted, our Constitution should be protected and not be sold to special interest groups trying to purchase a place in it for their ideas to be forced on the rest of us.

Further, it must be emphasized that under federal statute marijuana is still illegal, limiting the ability of financial institutions to support an illegal industry; the sale of marijuana is therefore a cash business.

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube and Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski wisely warned us that legalization will lead to an increase in crime and fraud.

Congratulations to them for having the courage to alert us to what they know, as professional law officers, will negatively impact Manatee.

Recently John Morgan, Kevin Sabet, Ph.D. (director of the Drug Policy Institute at UF College of Medicine) and Charlie Brown (Denver city councilmen) participated in a NPR radio debate (WUSF Florida Matters: Medical Marijuana).

Mr. Brown, who is on the committee attempting to regulate marijuana in Denver, clearly states that a constitutional amendment is a big mistake, and he talked about the regulation nightmare in Colorado.

Those interested in understanding this issue can listen to the debate at http://www.wusf.usf.edu/news/program/florida_matters/episode/2013-10/florida_matters_medical_marijuana

There is a reason that law enforcement, major medical associations and substance abuse prevention and treatment groups oppose the effort to determine marijuana as medicine at the ballot box.

Once Floridians understand the impact of this ballot initiative on our children, the economy and public safety, MCSAC believes that, compassion aside, they will refuse to allow a special interest group to hijack our legislative and safe medicine processes for their own gain.

Sharon Kramer, M.Ed, CPP, is the executive director and chief executive of the Manatee County Substance Abuse Coalition.

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