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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014

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Opponents of Fla. medical marijuana initiative continue to warn of likely abuses


Published:

The “Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot” coalition issued dire warnings in a news conference Wednesday, including a prediction that out-of-state pot users will create their own version of the “Oxycodone Express.”

The coalition opposes a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November allowing medical marijuana in Florida. They say the wording is too broad and will lead to widespread recreational use.

“Oxycodone Express” refers to the habit of users of that widely-abused drug driving from other states to certain pain management clinics in Florida to get their fix. The state has since cracked down on “pill mills.”

Calvina Fay, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation, joined Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger and Colorado lawyer and anti-marijuana activist Rachel O’Bryan.

They echoed the complaints of Florida legislative leadership, especially House Speaker Will Weatherford’s claim that the amendment will lead to “the Coloradofication of Florida, where the end game is a pot shop on every street corner.”

In 2012, Colorado was the first state to OK marijuana for recreational use for those 21 and older, though voters there had first passed a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana in 2000.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” Fay told reporters. “This (amendment) will be a de facto legalization ... A big marijuana industry will be legalized if it passes, and make no mistake, it will be promoted to kids. It’s not about medicine.”

The head of the drive to legalize medical pot in Florida countered that it’s only about medicine. Medicinal marijuana has been used by cancer patients and others to manage pain, for example.

“They’re not saying anything new,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager of United for Care. “I don’t think their arguments are based on fact or reality but on emotion.”

Pollara says there will be no “pot express” if the amendment passes – and voter opinion polls have suggested it will pass.

“Under no scenario will you be able to just walk into a doctor’s office and walk out with marijuana,” he said, referring to separate dispensaries.

Lawmakers also passed and Gov. Rick Scott approved a separate state law that specifically allows a non-euphoric strain of marijuana known as Charlotte’s Web.

Its passage was pushed by families with children who suffer from intense seizures, best relieved by medical pot that is ingested as an infused oil.

The politics of the governor’s race also is in play.

Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, who supports the amendment, is a former employee of Orlando attorney John Morgan, who has been a big financial backer of the medical marijuana initiative.

Scott, on the other hand, has said he personally will vote ‘no’ on the amendment this November.

Selling marijuana is still a federal crime, although the Obama administration has suggested that federal prosecutors not pursue people, particularly “the seriously ill and their caregivers,” who distribute and use medical marijuana in compliance with an existing state law.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized medical marijuana under state law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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