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Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014
Editorials

Editorial: Amendment 2 would unshackle unsafe drug

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Polls indicate Florida voters are overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional amendment that will legalize the medical use of marijuana.

That is both understandable and alarming.

Although Amendment 2 is being depicted as an effort to provide relief to the suffering, it is rife with loopholes that likely will result in the widespread use of an unsafe drug.

Parents, in particular, should be upset because the amendment includes no age limits or requirements for parental consent.

Indeed, the vaguely written constitutional initiative, the entirety of which you will not see in the ballot summary, opens the door to all kinds of mischief and abuse.

The amendment, for instance, allows marijuana to be used for debilitating medical “conditions” and lists cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and a few other serious diseases. But it concludes the treatment can be given for “other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

That is a loophole large enough to drive a Volkswagen van through.

People might be able to obtain marijuana for a toothache, sore knee or anxiety.

Does anybody doubt that there will be unscrupulous health officials who would capitalize on the lax rule?

As Tampa OB-GYN Dr. Madelyn Butler says, “Welcome to pill mills part two.”

Under the amendment, a physician certifies someone is eligible for marijuana just by stating in his or her “professional opinion the patient suffers from a debilitating medical condition.”

The patient can then obtain the marijuana from approved centers with the aid of a certified “caregiver.”

The amendment’s language gives physicians and health care officials a virtual free pass for abuse. It states physicians “shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law for issuing a physician certification to a person diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition ....”

A similar protection is provided for medical marijuana treatment centers and their employees.

In other words, irresponsible physicians and marijuana center administrators and employees would be immune from any liability, regardless of how recklessly they distribute the drug.

Moreover, the amendment’s only requirement for becoming a “caregiver” is that the individual at least be 21 years old.

Similarly, no standard is established for marijuana’s content, though its potency varies dramatically.

The amendment calls for the Department of Health to develop rules for such matters, but there is no guarantee rigorous restrictions would be adopted — or even possible because of the amendment’s language.

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell tells us the courts are likely to read the amendment’s provisions broadly because they will have become a “constitutional right.”

Even the justification for the amendment is debatable.

Dr. Butler says a prescription capsule — Marinol — that includes the primary active ingredients in marijuana is available for patients with cancer, AIDS and other diseases.

The Florida Medical Association, which represents 20,000 physicians, opposes the measure as strongly as law enforcement organizations.

When announcing its position last week, FMA President Alan B. Pillersdorf, stated: “We have come together to reject an amendment that does not have the proper regulations in place, approves an unsafe method of drug delivery and puts a substance that has drug abuse potential in the hands of Floridians ...”

It is one thing to be compassionate; it’s another to be reckless.

Florida voters should think seriously about whether they want to enshrine in the state constitution a loosely worded amendment unshackling the use of a potent drug.

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