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Monday, Jul 28, 2014
Joe Henderson

Henderson: Floridians can handle medical marijuana issue

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Published:   |   Updated: January 7, 2014 at 02:12 PM

If I knew someone battling the ravages of cancer and thought smoking marijuana would make them feel better, you bet I would do what I could to help them. I think most people with any sort of compassion would do the same.

There is statistical evidence to back this up.

A Quinnipiac poll from late November showed an astonishing 82 percent of Floridians favor a proposed state amendment to allow the use of medical marijuana in our state. You normally can’t get that many to agree they like sunsets, ice cream cones and puppy dogs.

But it’s never that simple, is it?

Even as supporters of the amendment work to secure enough signatures to get it on the ballot in November, Attorney General Pam Bondi is leading the charge to block it.

She has filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court in which, among other things, she argues, “The ballot title and summary suggest that the amendment would allow medical marijuana in narrow, defined circumstances, and only for patients with debilitating diseases. But if the amendment passed, Florida law would allow marijuana in limitless situations. Any physician could approve marijuana for seemingly any reason to seemingly any person (of any age) ...”

Well, physicians will prescribe any sort of heavy-duty pain reliever now, including ones with a lot harsher side effects than marijuana. OxyContin, for instance, is essentially synthesized heroin – perfectly legal, if prescribed.

Most of the powerful prescription pain-killers are derived from opiates. Any warning opponents want to put out about medical marijuana pales compared with the addictive properties of those drugs.

When it isn’t prescribed, people desperate for pain relief have shown they will do whatever it takes to get those drugs illegally. That led to the state’s crackdown on so-called pill mills.

Giving Bondi the benefit of the doubt, though, she correctly – if technically – argues that “federal law prohibits” medical marijuana. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 substance, meaning the feds say it has a high possibility of addiction with no proven medical benefit.

But it’s also true that 20 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of medical marijuana, and last August, the Department of Justice said it is basically up to the states to enforce their own narcotics laws.

So what is this really all about?

How about politics, for starters.

The chairman of People United for Medical Marijuana is John Morgan, he of the endless “Morgan and Morgan, for the people” TV attorney ads. He also happens to be Charlie Crist’s chief benefactor in the race for governor, which immediately has him opposite Bondi and the current Tallahassee administration.

This looks like a winning issue for Crist. If this measure makes it to the ballot, I think it passes easily.

I also think leaders would have a tough time explaining their opposition to the public. People’s tolerance on this issue, especially for medical uses, probably parallels what happened when prohibition was lifted in 1935 and the nation didn’t disintegrate.

Sometimes, the people are pretty smart. When it comes to the medical use of marijuana, they seem to be able to see through the smoke.

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