While Gov. Rick Scott's administration did just about everything it could to circumvent the will of Florida voters, Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he will end that tactic and instead work to implement the terms of Amendment 2, the constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana and passed with 71 percent support.
One of his first actions as governor was to challenge the state Legislature to repeal by mid-March a ban on smoking medical marijuana, threatening to drop the state's appeal of a judge's order that ruled the ban was unconstitutional, The News Service of Florida reported. Sadly, we've become accustomed to politicians doing the wrong thing, so DeSantis' move was somewhat of a surprise, albeit a good one.
Nikki Fried, whose campaign for commissioner of agriculture was opposed by opponents of medical marijuana, eked out a victory and may prove instrumental in ensuring those who qualify can access the medicine; Amendment 2 implementation was one of the principal elements of her platform.
And it's that word — medicine — that seems to be at the heart of the problem when it comes to medical marijuana, which also is known as cannabis. The federal government still legally treats all marijuana like heroin, a ridiculous classification that should have been changed years ago. Republicans often have been guilty of obfuscating any efforts to change that, so Rep. Matt Gaetz's bill, the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019, is a marginal start, but it's just that — a start. Previous research has been bottled up by institutions that fear the implications of their reports, as they essentially have been operating in a federally sanctioned gray area.
Politicians should treat medical cannabis just as they would any other type of medicine — a pill, for instance — and regulate it in a similar manner. The amendment doesn't go into specifics as to what a "debilitating" condition is, but that determination should be left up to physicians, not politicians. The hurricane limited access to physicians in the hardest-hit areas, which had minimal access in the first place.
Further, state lawmakers wrote the law as strict as they could, regardless of the implications for medical marijuana patients and supporters. According to an article in Forbes, the aim was to prevent the "stoner" culture from taking charge of the industry. In doing so, lawmakers instigated several lawsuits, including the "no smoking" lawsuit and others, such as one that challenged the restricted dispensary system, which limits who can grow it, who can sell it and where.
The uncertainty that resulted from the continued litigation slowed development of the market in rural areas that already lacked adequate care, and that has increased the costs for patients due to the lack of competition.
Voters passed the law for patients, not politicians. When you have 71 percent support on a referendum, you should take that as a mandate, and you shouldn't cower away for fear of defeat at the ballot box. The voters spoke — 71 percent in favor of medical marijuana.
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD