War of words in Amendment 2 fight gets personal

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Editor’s note: This article is cross-posted on PoliticsOfPot.com.

The war of words in the medicinal marijuana campaign is getting personal. Amendment 2, on the November ballot, would allow doctors to use marijuana to treat pain and debilitating illnesses. If 60 percent of voters approve then the constitutional amendment would greatly reduce state regulation of cannabis.

Vote No on 2 launched Tuesday a scathing attack on a group supporting the medicinal marijuana initiative. The news released lambasted a blue ribbon commission put together by allies of United for Care, the main proponent of Amendment 2. The commission is to serve as clearinghouse of best practices and to advise state officials on setting up a regulatory structure if the amendment passes.

“I guess the Yes on 2 Campaign thought nobody would notice if the author of the amendment and their campaign manager suddenly showed up on an alleged committee with no authority or standing to fix the loopholes they created,” said Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for the Vote No on 2 Campaign.

The chairman of the committee is former Florida House Speaker Jon Mills. Mills is also a former Dean of the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida. Mills wrote the initiative and is joined on the committee by law enforcement representatives, researchers and growers.

“It’s a clever move,” said Bascom. “Almost as clever as writing an initiative that tries to make people believe that Amendment 2 is about helping those with terrible, life-threatening and debilitating diseases when, in fact, it’s about opening up pot smoking for everyone in the State of Florida.”

The amendment would authorize marijuana use by people with “debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.” It lists diseases such as cancer, glaucoma and AIDS/HIV. It also refers to “other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.” Opponents have seized upon that provision to argue the amendment would lead to pot shops sprouting on every corner.

“That’s a cynical argument for even a tobacco lobbyist to make,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care. “It ignores people who are suffering and are using medical marijuana and want to come out of the shadows.”

Polls indicate support for a medicinal marijuana initiative is around 80 percent but drops to 50 percent when the question is about legalization. Mills successfully defended the amendment before the Florida Supreme Court against allegations that its wording hid the amendment’s true intent.

“They think they can win if they make this about legalization,” said Pollara. “But if you read the Amendment it plainly states in black and white that it is for medical conditions only and the Florida Supreme Court agreed.”