Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube makes his case against medical marijuana

kirby@bradenton.comJuly 12, 2014 

MANATEE-- Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube called again on county residents to vote against the legalization of medical marijuana on the Nov. 4 ballot during Friday's Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Steube has spoken out against the medical marijuana ballot measure, also known as Amendment 2, many times in the past few months.

At the breakfast at the Bradenton Country Club, he went through the amendment language line by line, bringing up possible issues law enforcement and employers might have should the amendment pass.

Steube's main issues with the amendment include broad language that leaves too much to interpretation, law enforcement difficulties and a possible situation similar to what was seen with Florida pill mills a few years ago.

Steube said the ballot's language allows doctors to recommend marijuana use

for any medical condition, which in other states has included anorexia, migraines and back and throat pain, in addition to debilitating diseases such as cancer or Parkinson's Disease.

"Should this amendment pass, there will be doctors in our community that will recommend medical marijuana for other conditions" besides debilitating diseases, Steube said. "If you have someone that you love that is under the age of 18, that person can go to these doctors and get a recommendation for medical marijuana. These are your children and grandchildren that will have access."

Jessica Spencer, statewide coalition director for Vote No on 2, a group against the amendment, said the lack of age requirement is unique to this ballot measure.

"We are the only state out of 22 or 23 states to have medical marijuana that does not require an age," said Spencer, who also was at the breakfast. "And because the privacy piece is written in there, it actually requires no parental consent whatsoever to get marijuana."

Steube also said it would be difficult for employers to enforce anti-drug policies. He said employees could show up to work under the influence of marijuana and an employer could choose to have them tested. But current tests for the drug can only tell if it has been consumed sometime in the last 30 days, not whether an individual is currently high.

"If you're authorized to use medical marijuana, you do not have to notify your employer. How many people will be under the influence of medical marijuana at work? And you're not even going to know it," Steube said. "They could be in charge of your children and grandchildren at the daycare, they could be a teacher at a school, a school bus driver, your surgeon, the paramedic on the ambulance or the law enforcement officer responding to a call for service at your house."

Steube said officers in the 22 states that have already legalized medical marijuana face many law enforcement challenges, and that his agency is already being sued by a Manatee couple for confiscating their marijuana before the drug has even been legalized.

Cathy and Bob Jordan, of Parrish, long-time supporters of legalizing what they adamantly call "cannabis," not marijuana, say they have the only legal cannabis garden in Florida. The legal status is due to Cathy's condition, according to the Jordans, saying that if she didn't smoke regularly, her Lou Gehrig's Disease would kill her.

"It keeps her alive," Bob said. "If she stops smoking it, then within a week her twitching comes back, she can't eat and her face would get numb. Something about the drug keeps her disease at bay."

In February 2013, deputies confiscated 23 marijuana plants from the Jordans, which fully developed are valued between $1,200 and $1,500, the Herald has reported. They filed a lawsuit over the worth of the cannabis plants, but Bob Jordan said he hasn't heard anything about it in more than six months.

Jordan said he suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his time serving in Vietnam, and that he has read multiple reports that cannabis helps victims of PTSD and cuts down on the amount of sufferers who commit suicide.

"Is it or isn't it medicine?" he asked. "That's the bottom line."

But people such as Spencer aren't convinced, and believe medical marijuana should at least not be approved under the amendment's current language.

"A 'yes' vote on this language is forever," she said. "A 'no' is for not right now."

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