Vote No on 2 campaign takes aim at pot amendment’s “teenager loophole”

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Medical marijuana opponents are ramping up efforts to defeat Florida’s Amendment 2, by pointing differences between the actual wording of November’s ballot initiative and supporters say will happen once the measure reaches the Florida Legislature and courts.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Vote No on 2 campaign is focusing on the so-called “teenager loophole,” where they claim minors can purchase medical marijuana in “complete privacy even from their parents.”

Supporters of the amendment say the loophole is “a groundless concern,” not because of what the Amendment actually says, but by speculating what might happen if the measure passes.

The belief is that “pot docs” will never allow minors to get pot without parental consent because current law requires parental notification and consent for any medical treatment for minors.

However, a number of constitutional lawyers caution that that assumption is not valid.

“Amendment 2 creates a new, fundamental right to get medical marijuana,” says former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell. “Pre-existing laws inconsistent with this new constitutional right will give way.

“Indeed, if passed, Amendment 2 includes a double-whammy.”

As “qualifying patients,” children have a constitutional right to obtain medical marijuana, and part of that right is keeping the identity of all qualifying patients confidential.

Bell says that confidentiality could thwart parental consent requirements, and Amendment 2’s expanded constitutional right will clash with current laws requiring parental notice and consent before children obtain medical treatment.

If Amendment 2 passes, he adds, children could have both the constitutional right to medical marijuana and the right to have their identity as a “qualifying patient” kept secret.  Therefore, no one can assure what, if any, right parents will have for notification and consent to minor children who will be getting medical marijuana.

The language of the section at issue in Amendment 2 starts with “The Department shall protect the confidentiality of all qualifying patients,” without exceptions.

Bell contends that only a few simple words would have clarified and closed this loophole.  Since the Amendment does not make its way through the legislative process, the language cannot be fixed easily.

“The pot supporters had every chance to be clear about the critical details of the Pot Amendment,” said Tallahassee attorney Susan Kelsey. “But now, they ask voters to assume that the Legislature and Florida’s courts will cure the loopholes in it. Where is the crystal ball?”

Kelsey adds that Amendment 2 is a constitutional amendment, which cannot be changed by statutory law or court interpretation.

The “teenager loophole” joins the  “any other condition” vagueness as written in amendment 2, which could allow teenagers with anything from exam stress or trouble sleeping to get pot from any doctor willing to certify them.

The three other loopholes, according to the Vote No on 2 campaign:

Drug Dealer Loophole

Amendment 2 allows so-called “caregivers” to dispense medical pot without medical training. Under Amendment 2 as written, it will be easier to get a caregiver’s license than a driver’s license.

Pill Mill Loophole

By federal law, legitimate doctors cannot prescribe medical marijuana to patients, which could lead to a situation similar to “pill mills,” where a handful of unethical doctors will open up “pot shops.”  Opponents say these stores can crop up anywhere — near restaurants, schools, churches and supermarkets.

Pot for Any Purpose Loophole

Vote No on 2 recognizes that the ballot language makes it appear marijuana would be limited to use for debilitating conditions, but the actual wording allows for “other conditions,” such as minor fatigue, neck aches, backaches, headaches and menstrual cramps.  Only a certificate — not an actual doctor’s prescription — is required to obtain pot.

As a grassroots effort, the Vote No on 2 Campaign is working to inform Florida voters of some of the more troubling details of Amendment 2.  With a coalition that includes law enforcement, business leaders, attorneys, medical professionals and concerned parents, who believe the medical marijuana amendment is only a pretense to legalize pot smoking in Florida.

More information on the Vote No on 2 Campaign, is available at www.voteno2.org, on Twitter at @saynoamendment2, and the group’s FB.com/noonamendment2 Facebook page.

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.