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New anti-pot video claims Amendment 2 allows ‘5,000’ marijuana shops in Florida

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If Florida passes a constitutional amendment in November to legalize medical marijuana, opponents of the measure say the Sunshine State could soon be swamped with more pot shops than McDonald’s, 7-Eleven and Starbucks combined.

That’s the message from a new video — titled “5,000” — produced by the Vote No on 2 campaign, which claims that if Amendment 2 passes, the door could open for as many as 5,000 marijuana dispensaries across the state.

The group says the video is the third in a series of advertisements “setting the record straight on what Amendment 2 really means for Floridians.”

“Amendment 2 backers are trying to scam Floridians into thinking this amendment would not lead to rampant marijuana access,” said Vote No on 2 Campaign spokesperson Christina Johnson in a statement Thursday morning. “The fact is, at least 2,000 pot shops would pop up in Florida, but that number could be even higher.

“Marijuana legalization proponents have admitted publicly that Amendment 2 could lead to as many as 5,000 pot shops taking root in our state opponent,” Johnson added. “It’s time to put a stop to those who continue to fool Florida voters into thinking this is ‘medical’ marijuana when it’s nothing more than recreational use pot.”

Last month, the Vote No on 2 Campaign released two web videos, “Search” and “Three Things.”

The videos examine California’s experience with medical marijuana, and highlighted the number of shops, the varieties sold and proliferation of what some critics point to as kid-friendly candy-like pot edibles, the heightened potency of the genetically-modified marijuana, and the ease with which it is obtained.

Supporters of Amendment 2 insist there will be a difference between smoking marijuana for recreational use and using marijuana derivatives to alleviate the effects of some illnesses, including childhood epilepsy. They say that lawmakers will be in control of the development and number of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state.

“It will be up to the Florida Legislature and local governments to determine how many retail facilities will be allowed to serve the patients of our state,” said Bianca Garza, spokeswoman for United for Care, which supports Amendment 2. “We hope to work with elected leaders to ensure that patients are served appropriately and that city and county law enforcement agencies are comfortable with the medical marijuana facilities in their communities.”

The notion that Florida will follow California, which adopted a vague and loose medical marijuana law 20 years ago and now has borderline illegal pot shops proliferating in the state, is false, United for Care officials say.

Many states have passed more carefully crafted laws that prohibit the glut of pot shops, medical marijuana supporters say.

Florida’s proposed amendment has a multi-step process written into it that ensures the state will not have the same problems vexing California. The rules would be decided by the state’s Department of Health and the Legislature, along with some local governmental control.

“In reality, the comparison is detached from reality,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care. “Florida’s Amendment 2 would be one of the strictest in the nation and medical marijuana would only be provided to seriously debilitated patients when recommended by an actual physician.

“California has no such provision,” he said.

He said Vote No on 2 is “devaluing HIV/AIDS patients, telling patients who qualify, who likely cannot drive, they should have to travel great distances to obtain their medicine, and outright lying in their attempt to compare Florida’s Amendment 2 to California’s medical marijuana program.”

Two years ago, the Florida Legislature enacted a law creating a framework to provide marijuana-based medication to treat a limited number of ailments. The approved marijuana extract is low grade and cannot be smoked, and will not cause the euphoric effects typically associated with marijuana use.

As a result of the law, five medical marijuana grow houses have been authorized in the state, and already are cultivating crops. Dispensing the medication to eligible patients is scheduled to begin before the proposed referendum is voted on in November.

If approved, the change could expand current laws, permit a higher grade of cannabis as well as expanding the patient base to those with a wider range of ailments.

Vote No on 2 organizers counter those arguments with a pair of high-profile reports:

— A Journal of Drug Policy Annual Report, which says only 3 percent of medical marijuana users had conditions like cancer and AIDS. The report noted that the average medical marijuana user is a 32-year old male with a history of drug and alcohol use.

The San Francisco Journal story which says “there are more pot shops than Starbucks,” as well as citing the 2016 Florida Impact Estimating Conference, showing “the state would have 2,000 pot shops in Florida,” which is more than Starbucks, McDonald’s and 7-Eleven’s combined.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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