A majority of Floridians have already spoken. Two years ago, nearly 58 percent of voters said doctors should be able to prescribe medical marijuana for people with certain conditions. But because 60 percent is needed to pass a state constitutional amendment, the measure died.
This year, the push to legalize medical marijuana is back as Amendment 2. Once again, we urge voters to say “yes.”
Smoking or digesting cannabis to alleviate pain, seizures or anxiety is hardly controversial anymore. Medical marijuana is now legal in 25 states and Washington D.C. This November, another four states, including Florida, are considering its passage.
More importantly, the authors of Amendment 2 listened to their critics and made the measure more restrictive.
Those who opposed last year’s push feared it would allow children to get medical pot from their doctor. They feared it would be prescribed for just about anything, including a hangnail. They feared caregivers would become drug dealers.
This year, the generic term “debilitating” illness is redefined as illnesses comparable to cancer, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s Disease and epilepsy. A minor cannot be prescribed cannabis unless a parent or guardian gives consent. And the Department of Health can limit the number of people to whom a caregiver can provide marijuana.
Florida is home to the nation’s largest percentage of elderly residents, a population at high risk for chronic painful diseases. Many are being overprescribed opioid-based pain pills, which have a high probability for abuse. Last year in Broward County, an estimated 200 people died from prescription opioid overdoses.
In some of these cases, cannabis — which can be distributed in a smokable form, as an oil or as an edible — would provide a safer alternative. Cannabis doesn’t kill.
Because of a federal ban on cannabis, researchers have had difficulty obtaining and testing the plant for medicinal purposes. And that lets opponents argue there’s not enough scientific proof that it has medical benefits.
But the results are undeniable.
From children with severe forms of epilepsy to adults with cancer, cannabis has provided relief with minimal side effects. People undergoing chemotherapy say smoking marijuana relieves nausea, pain and anxiety like nothing else.
Jacel Delgadillo, of Miami, says that before she started giving medical-grade THC to her five-year-old son, Bruno, he suffered 300 seizures a day. The low-grade THC that Florida legalized two years doesn’t help. But the medical-grade version has reduced his seizures to about three a day. To get it, she must travel to California and break the law in bringing it back. But when you watch the relief it gives her boy, you understand why she does what she does.
“I have to try to convince people to approve a medication that’s helping with his seizures, that’s helping him cognitively, that’s helping him in his daily life,” Delgadillo says. “All I want is a better quality of life for him, that’s all I’m asking for. I’m just fighting for his life. It’s my life right now, fighting for him.”
Opponents argue that if Amendment 2 passes, unregulated pot shops would flourish across Florida. They’ve sent out mailers warning voters that “you can expect the seedy elements of the pot industry to move in right next door to your neighborhood, your church, your business and even your children’s school.”
PolitiFact found this claim “mostly false.”
If the amendment passes, state lawmakers can regulate the industry. And cities could limit the number and location of dispensaries. No one wants a pot shop on every corner.
But the legislature’s refusal to act on cannabis is what’s driven citizens to seek the right via a constitutional amendment.
A majority of Florida voters have already said they want to let sick and suffering patients use cannabis.
It’s time to put Amendment 2 over the top.
Source: Sun Sentinel