Herald recommends yes vote on Amendment 2 for medical marijuana

Vague language and other flaws doomed the medical marijuana amendment put before voters in 2014, though that proposal only lost by a slim margin, garnering 58 percent of the ballots. Amendment 2 returns on the November ballot much improved.

United We Care, the grassroots organization behind the amendment, rewrote the proposal to address the loopholes and weaknesses that opponents of the 2014 measure cited repeatedly. The 2016 constitutional amendment language explicitly outlines and clarifies all the key points found objectionable.

This time around, the language found no opposition from the legal hurdles all amendment proposals face. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi did not seek to block this rendition of the initiative before the state Supreme Court — a total turnaround from her strong opposition in 2014. The Supreme Court, divided over the issue by a 4-3 vote two years ago, this time ruled 7-0 that the measure is not misleading and only covers a single subject.

“Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions,” as Amendment 2 is titled, holds these changes from the 2014 version:

  • Specifically states patient conditions must be debilitating and excludes non-debilitating conditions, thus removing the challenge that marijuana could be recommended for less serious ailments. Those debilitating conditions include cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
  • Clearly articulates parental consent requirements in order for minors to receive medical cannabis, even though state law already covers that. Previous opponents incorrectly claimed minors would be able to acquire marijuana without parental knowledge.
  • Explicitly affirms that doctors are not immune from negligence and malpractice in recommending medical cannabis.
  • Requires the state Department of Health to establish qualifications and standards for caregivers, including conducting background checks.

Eligibility for medical marijuana would be limited to ill patients holding a state-issued ID card who are approved in writing — with a time limit for use set by a licensed physician.

Once again, initiative foes argue the legalization of medical cannabis should be handled by the state Legislature instead of being enshrined into the Florida Constitution — a point this Editorial Board embraced in 2014 and has encouraged since. While legislative action is the proper route as constitutions are founding documents designed to be bedrock governing instruments, the Legislature forfeited that responsibility by failing to pass comprehensive medical marijuana bills filed over the past several years.

Instead, this year lawmakers took a baby step forward, passing a measure that allows the use of cannabis for terminally ill patients. In 2014, the Legislature, swamped by a public outcry, authorized a noneuphoric brand of marijuana oil known as Charlotte’s Web to be available to patients with severe seizure disorders. The governor signed both into law.

After two years of foot-dragging, the first medical cannabis dispensary for delivering the oil finally opened recently. That, too, gives pause to the state’s intentions on a more comprehensive medical marijuana bill.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration remains on the wrong side of history and reality in maintaining marijuana’s status as one of the most dangerous drugs in existence. The ruling this August maintains pot’s status as a Schedule 1 drug, identified by the government as lacking any medical value — and as dangerous as heroin, an absurd listing.

Yet medical marijuana is endorsed by the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Preventive Medical Association and many other national, international and state organizations.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent and a longtime opponent of medical marijuana, examined hundreds of articles from 1840 to 1930 — during a time when marijuana was embraced by the medical community as a legitimate prescription. He reversed his position in a 2013 documentary called “Weed” and advocated cannabis as a proper prescription for pain.

At the same time the DEA held firm on marijuana’s drug status, the agency ended its decades-long restriction on pot production for use in medical research. (Only the University of Mississippi currently holds a permit.) Scientists have long been battling the federal policy as obstructing advances in determining the medical efficacy of cannabis. This is vital progress.

With Amendment 2’s passsage, Florida would join 24 other states and Washington, D.C. with medical marijuana laws. (Four have legalized cannabis for recreational use.)

The Herald Editorial Board recommends a yes vote on Amendment 2.

Source: Bradenton Herald

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