Pubdate: Tue, 01 Nov 2016
Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)
Copyright: 2016 News-Journal Corporation
Author: Mike Finch II


The last time Floridians faced the subject of medical marijuana on the
ballot, the measure just barely failed to garner enough support needed
to become law.

This time appears to be different. There's still resistance, but the
large wave of criticism from various groups like the Florida Sheriff's
Association is gone. Polls indicate the ballot measure again named
Amendment 2 appears to be coasting toward passage.

The most recent survey released by the University of North Florida
indicates 73 percent of voters approve of the amendment, significantly
more than the 60 percent needed for it to become law. Backers of the
Amendment say stripping away the so-called loopholes and timing is

The poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent, surveyed
more than 800 registered voters. Across age and party lines, an
overwhelming majority of respondents said they would vote in favor of
the amendment, which would expand access to more patients.

A different dynamic also is at play this election: a presidential race
that has frequently veered toward controversy.

"The type of voter that tends to show up at a presidential race is
different than the folks that showed up in 2014," said Michael Binder,
who directs the university's Public Opinion Research Lab. "You tend to
get a younger, more diverse crowd showing up on election day which
tends to be more in favor of these types of things as opposed to the
older, more conservative voters that show up during the gubernatorial

Ballot initiatives tend to poll better than they do on election day,
Binder added, but "the biggest thing is the '(vote) no' effort this
time around has been minuscule compared to last-ditch efforts and the
tens of millions of dollars that got dumped in at the last minute in

But organizers of the anti-Amendment 2 campaign supported by the Drug
Free Florida Committee, which has raised $3.4 million this year, say
their support is just as strong as it was two years ago. The political
action committee has seen big-dollar donations from casino mogul
Sheldon Adelson and former United State Ambassador Mel Sembler. But
the group raised about $3 million less than in 2014.

The Florida Legislature in 2014 passed a measure legalizing low-THC
cannabis, which doesn't induce the same euphoria as regular marijuana,
for patients with cancer or those suffering from chronic seizures and
severe muscle spasms.

Amendment 2 would add post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, HIV,
AIDS, ALS, Parkinson's disease, Crohn's disease, glaucoma and multiple
sclerosis to the list of treatable illnesses as well as other
"debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida

Opponents contend the language of the amendment could still open the
door for rampant abuse, holding the state of California as an example.
Christina Johnson, a spokesperson for the Vote No on 2 campaign,
called the ballot initiative a "slippery slope" that leaves the
"debilitating medical condition" open to interpretation.

"Right now marijuana is not (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) tested
or FDA approved as other drugs are," Johnson said. "We believe that if
this is going to be out there then it needs to be tested and approved."

But Orlando attorney and medical marijuana supporter John Morgan said
that argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Morgan's law firm has been
the largest contributor to the People United For Medical Marijuana
Committee, for which he serves as chairman. Campaign finance records
show the group has raised $6.1 million since 2015.

"Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which means it can't be studied. We
can't take it to universities. If you look at what's gone on in
Israel, where they have studied it, it's nothing short of miraculous,"
Morgan said. "It's kind of paradoxical. On one hand, they say, 'hey,
we want to see some studies' but on the other hand, it's impossible to
have a study because it's a Schedule I drug. There can be no studies
in America."

The lack of evidence is why the Florida Medical Association, the trade
group that represents some 20,000 physicians, maintained its stance
against marijuana for medical use. In an August statement, the group
said "there was nothing medical about this proposal." But when reached
by The News-Journal, the group declined to comment further.

The association's opposition hasn't stopped more than 150 doctors from
registering with the Florida Department of Health to use cannabis to
treat patients. There are at least six in Volusia and Flagler
counties, although some are waiting for the dust to settle on the
merits of marijuana.

Dr. Joseph Rosado, a primary care physician in Orange City, has
recommended the drug for four patients and as many as 30 others are
awaiting the 90-day wait. Rosado expects if the law passes, that the
number of patients he sees from the region will grow because the
medical community is not yet in agreement.

"There aren't that many doctors in the community that are certified to
recommend the medical marijuana, but more importantly there are a
number of doctors that are not in agreement with this," said Rosado,
who himself has donated $9,150 to support Amendment 2.

"It will increase the number of patients that I see and it will
broaden the scope of conditions that I will be addressing."

How it reads on the ballot:

No. 2 Constitutional Amendment Article X, Section 29 Use of Marijuana
for Debilitating Medical Conditions

Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating
medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician.
Allows caregivers to assist patients' medical use of marijuana. The
Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce
and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue
identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to
Florida law. Does not immunize violations of federal law or any
non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.

Increased costs from this amendment to state and local governments
cannot be determined. There will be additional regulatory costs and
enforcement activities associated with the production, sale, use and
possession medical marijuana. Fees may offset some of the costs. Sales
tax will likely apply to most purchases, resulting in a substantial
increase in state and local government revenues that cannot be
determined precisely. The impact on property tax revenues cannot be
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MAP posted-by: Matt