Marijuana Myths and Facts Medical Marijuana –Good for our state?

Medical MarijuanaWhen voters go to the polls in November, they’re going to see a short paragraph that is supposed to summarize Amendment 2, which seeks to legalize pot for “medicinal” use. The Florida Supreme Court was sharply divided over whether that language accurately represented what’s in the amendment, but allowed it to stand. Before casting their votes, every county resident should read the ballot language. (A link to it is below.) In case you don’t have time, here are a few loopholes to keep in mind:

No protection for children
The amendment contains no age limit, so any child of any age can get a recommendation for marijuana without parental consent. Despite assurances that our state’s parental consent law will apply, that’s not the case because a constitutional amendment such as this one supersedes any state statute. In fact, once passed, any attempts to change the intent of the amendment would, without question, face legal challenges from the folks who sought to make it as broad as possible.

While the summary on the ballot says the amendment is for “certain medical conditions,” the full language of the amendment contains a broadly worded statement that would allow anyone to get a recommendation for any reason, from headaches to menstrual cramps to tennis elbow. Experience in other medical marijuana states has shown us how this story plays out. According to Colorado’s State Department of Health, only 2% of users reported cancer, and less than 1% reported HIV/AIDS as their reason for using marijuana. The vast majority (94%) reported “severe pain,” and researchers have found that the average user is a 32-year-old white male with a history of alcohol, cocaine and meth use, but no history of a life-threatening illness.

As written, the amendment doesn’t provide any guidelines about who can be a caregiver and provide marijuana to another person: There is no standard of care and no oversight written in the amendment. Caregivers don’t need to have any medical training or background checks and, in fact, can have current drug charges, be drug addicts, drug dealers or convicted felons.

Everyone involved in the recommendation, cultivation and sale of marijuana is given full immunity from responsibility should the patient have a bad experience. This could be anything from an allergic reaction to being fired from a job because marijuana is still illegal in the workplace (even with a recommendation from a doctor). Unlike bartenders who can be prosecuted if a drunk patron kills or injures someone while driving, those involved in the medical marijuana business will be scot free in cases where injury or death occur as a result of marijuana impairment.

Like any other political issue, the real story behind marijuana isn’t captured in news reports. The consequences of legalization for our state, our communities and our kids are evident in other states: more kids using the drug, higher impaired driving rates, more fatalities. To read the ballot language, visit: esources/ballot-language/. You can also read news coverage, learn about other states’ experiences and get current statistics about pot use.

EDITORS’ NOTE: Voters will decide in November on Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana for medicinal use. This is the first of a three-part series about marijuana and the amendment that examines the ballot measure, takes a look at what the science tells us about the drug and sheds light on who’s really using it.

Margaret Sotham is the director of the South Miami Drug-Free Coalition, the county-wide coalition spokesperson on marijuana and a mom of two.

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