Pubdate: Sun, 07 Feb 2016
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2016 The Palm Beach Post


After utterly failing to bring relief even to children with severe 
epilepsy through a non-narcotic form of marijuana, Florida officials 
fully deserve the wrath of voters who are on the way to taking 
matters into their own hands - with a constitutional amendment that 
would make marijuana available for a wide range of debilitating 
medical conditions.

The medical marijuana amendment has gained enough signatures to 
qualify for the November ballot. It is sponsored by the same folks 
who fell just short with a similar amendment in 2014. Then, the 
measure got 58 percent of the vote. This time - in a higher-turnout, 
presidential election year - the chances of gaining the needed 60 
percent seem in the bag.

Organizer John Morgan, the Orlando attorney bankrolling the effort, 
sure thinks so. While his 2014 effort focused on the young-person 
vote, this year he'll educate seniors. They are a natural 
constituency for a measure allowing people with cancer, glaucoma and 
other serious, common afflictions to ask their doctor to prescribe 
medical marijuana, a remedy that is rapidly losing the stigma it once had.

Unlike 2014, Attorney General Pam Bondi has not come out against the 
amendment. Proponents tightened 2014 language that had been depicted 
as "loopholes" by opponents who feared the spread of drug use.

A solid 68 percent of Florida voters surveyed last July said they are 
willing to vote yes to medical marijuana, according to a survey by 
St. Pete Polls.

"If we can pass this, 400,000 really sick and terminally ill people 
will benefit from day one," Morgan said recently.

We are on record as saying that adding a medical-marijuana clause to 
the Florida Constitution is a poor way to govern. Statutory solutions 
are always preferable for addressing fast-moving and often volatile 
issues like this one. But the Legislature shows no sign of moving at 
anywhere near the pace of the popular will.

In 2014 lawmakers passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed, a "Charlotte's 
Web" law, which legalizes the use of a non-euphoric strain of 
marijuana of that name to treat dire conditions such as epilepsy, ALS 
and cancer. Yet sufferers with these conditions have seen not a drop 
of the promised drug while an achingly slow bureaucratic and 
regulatory process trudges along.

Charlotte's Web was supposed to be available a year ago. But three 
judges had to wade through 30,000 pages of applications to select 
five vendors to grow, process and distribute the newly legal weed, in 
different parts of the state. The process survived two legal 
challenges. But just last week, three of the losing nurseries filed 
suit to at least temporarily block competitors from starting 
production. And so the medication is still months away.

Last week , a state Senate committee passed a bill (SB 460) that 
would OK medical marijuana for people with terminal illnesses. 
Tellingly, most of the debate would dwell on the delays with 
Charlotte's Web. Sens. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and Joseph 
Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach, proposed amendments to speed up the 2014 
regulatory framework, such as boosting the number of vendors. But as 
Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, said, the state is "not there yet." The 
amendments lost.

Twenty-three states permit medical cannabis use, and three more are 
poised to advance medical laws this year. We bet that will be four 
more, as Florida voters do what their government is too timid to do: 
make it legal for people with debilitating illness to ease their 
pain, nausea, appetite loss or anxiety.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom