Amendment 2 nothing more than de facto pot legalization, opponents reiterate

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Opponents of Amendment 2 criticized the ballot initiative Wednesday, saying authorizing the medical use of marijuana is “de facto legalization.”

“Everybody says ‘my state can do a better job,’” said Rachel O’Bryan about the failure of various states to control the use of medicinal marijuana. O’Bryan helped write Colorado’s regulatory guidelines and now works to minimize the negative ramifications of legal marijuana. She spoke at a news conference organized by Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot and the Drug Free America Foundation.

“This is an onion people.  We  are unwrapping it and every layer brings something new,” said O’Bryan, asserting that people are overly optimistic if they think they can control marijuana use if loopholes provide access.

O’Bryan said when Colorado authorized medicinal marijuana in 2000 it started down the path towards legalization, which occurred earlier this year. She said the policy change has made it more difficult to raise children.

Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot is backed by the Florida Sheriffs Association. Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger noted that 99 percent of the interdiction of marijuana in Central Florida involves pot from states where the medicinal use has been authorized.

Calvina Fay, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation warned that Amendment 2 would legalize a “big marijuana industry” which would create a cannabis version of the OxyContin Express, when loose regulations drew addicts throughout the southeast to Florida where they loaded up on OxyContin to sale in their home state.

“I believe it will be the same scenario, the same type of doctors,” said Fay. “Now they will be handing out marijuana instead of the pain pills.”

Fay and O’Bryan cited statistics from a Drug Free America study which paints the argument for medicinal marijuana as a sham. In Colorado the study found in Dec. 2012 of the 108, 526 medicinal marijuana patients 94 percent were using it to treat pain, which the researchers noted is a very subjective determinations.

Three percent of the patients suffered from cancer, 1 percent from glaucoma and another 1 percent from HIV/AIDS.  The average age of a patient was 41 and 68 percent were male.

Jordan Wellington is a former policy analyst with the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division and a member of a blue ribbon commission created by Florida for Care to serve as a clearinghouse of best practices and to advocate for what FFC describes as a strong regulatory structure if 2 is approved.

Wellington said Fay and O’Bryan used misleading statistics to argue against the amendment.

“The percentage citing pain is misleading since a patient might have cancer and pain or MS and pain but the bottom line is that patients and doctors should be free to determine whether the potential benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the risks,” said Wellington. “DFA’s position that patients should be forced to use pharmaceutical products with far greater negative side effects is simply unfair to patients who would prefer to use a less harmful medicine.”

Amendment 2 if approved by 60 percent of voters in November would authorize a doctor to use marijuana to treat patients with either a debilitating condition or other conditions when the doctor believes benefits from marijuana outweigh health risks.

O’Bryan said Floridians should consider the ramifications.  She said in Denver there are more medical marijuana shops than there are McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.