Medical marijuana seems to be the topic du jour as the Legislature is getting ready for its final week of session.
Much is being written by journalists about how the Legislature isn’t listening to the people of Florida, the 71 percent who voted for the amendment.
Even the New York Times editorial board has weighed in, as if they know something about what’s really going on here. They don’t, they just have a liberal ideology to espouse and the ink to print it.
No matter. No one in the Legislature is listening to them.
I’ve been involved on behalf of Smart Justice for the last four years on medical marijuana.
Suffice it to say, I have not been a proponent of the Charlotte’s Web legislation and the constitutional amendment.
Ultimately, both of those passed and accordingly, Smart Justice has accepted the results -- without any whining -- and proceeded to then make sure that the law and the implementation was sound, logical and fair.
Today, HB 1397 by House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues will be heard, and almost everyone has lambasted the legislation as being too strict.
Smart Justice has supported this bill because it reflects our belief that this is an important issue of significant impact.
Having said that, Sen. Rob Bradley’s SB 406 is also an excellent work product and the good news is that together, these two men will each compromise on issues to ensure that a bill is passed and sent to the governor.
I’ve listened to the constant carping of proponents that they voted for an amendment that allowed smoking of pot.
No, you didn’t.
As Rep. Jason Brodeur so eloquently said last week, the word smoking is nowhere in the amendment language.
John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times had a good column yesterday about the inconsistency of legislators regarding the whiskies and Wheaties bill and how they’ll vote on the med pot bill. The difference is that liquor isn’t a medicine prescribed by physicians, whereas medical marijuana is going to be recommended.
We all know that, unfortunately, the buggy got in front of the horse on medical pot because there is absolutely NO scientific evidence by American researchers on any medicinal value of cannabis.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence, and for many of the proponents, that’s all they need to convince them that cannabis has healing powers.
Florida legislators have a moral obligation to be strict with medical marijuana exactly because there is no science yet.
We can blame the feds -- and they deserve it, which is why two former state legislators who are now congressmen, one a Dem and the other a Repub, have filed a bill to make marijuana a Class II drug instead of a Class I drug -- and yes, the time to do so is now.
Thankfully, Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jackie Toledo have sponsored legislation that will fund medical marijuana research at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, something that Smart Justice has advocated for the last three years.
So, when legislative leaders promised to do regulation and implementation of medical marijuana better than any other state, well, they’re demonstrating that Florida will be the leader among all the states to do this in the right fashion.
Almost every proponent chastised the Legislature for making tough requirements, but Florida will be better for this thoughtful regulation than anywhere else.
While I can recite it in my sleep that no one has allegedly ever overdosed on marijuana, what the proponents never say in their threading of the needle is that people die every day from smoking pot.
On Wednesday, NBC News announced that for the first time in history, accident fatalities from drugs -- 43 percent -- outnumbered traffic deaths from alcohol -- 37 percent. This, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Google it. The numbers don’t lie.
That’s why how medical marijuana is implemented is so very important.
As of April 24, there were 734 doctors who’ve taken the exam that enables them to see patients, and in testimony earlier this week the Legislature was told that there were about 8,000 patients.
Yet, to hear proponents tell it, they can’t get access to medical marijuana.
Well, if you follow the rules, you can. Granted, there is a current 90-day waiting period, but that is probably going to be lessened to maybe 30-60 days in the eventual compromise.
Why should anyone have to wait? You don’t.
If your doctor is already on the list to recommend medical marijuana, then you don’t have to wait at all, though you will have to get a confirming second opinion.
The reason for the waiting period and the cross-check is to guarantee that the “pill mill” scourge doesn’t happen again.
It will, inevitably, because human nature is to be greedy and some doctors will recommend at will so that they can make a lot of money.
The Legislature has an obligation to make sure this doesn’t happen with medical pot, and the restrictions they’re proposing are thus reasonable and sound.
Until the patient registry expands greatly, the concept that the current seven growers can’t meet demand is simply theoretical.
At the rate of about 2,000 new patients per month, it will take years before there is a real access problem. Even if you don’t live near a dispensary, you can have the medical pot delivered to you.
The cost is too high? As both demand and supply grow, the cost will come down if for no other reason than economies of scale. It’s just like flat screen televisions or any consumer product. Initially, the cost is high until economies of scale and competition bring down the price.
Competition? Sure, why not. The only question is when to enlist new growers.
Smart Justice feels that new growers should come later down the road, except that black farmers should be entitled to start now, once they complete the application process and are approved.
And on that note, previous bidders should be first in line for any licenses after the black farmers, so long as they meet all the requirements.
Smoking of pot? Only for the terminally ill. No medical journal in America has anything to say about the positive health consequences of smoking, but if you're terminally ill, the issue is moot.
Vaping and probably edibles will be allowed in the final compromise.
In the final analysis, the Legislature will do the right thing and bring this in for a landing. But it won’t be because of all the whining, it’s because the Legislature has the responsibility under the amendment as passed to implement it, and they will.
Amendment 2 advocates should have learned a lesson from the experience of Amendment 1 advocates. If you force something down the throats of the Legislature through a Constitutional Amendment process, don’t be surprised if legislators have their own ideas on how to implement it.
Or devise an amendment that’s self-executing and you won’t have to worry about the Legislature.
Smart Justice appreciates all the hard work the Legislature has done to bring this in for a landing, and we’re confident that the final work product will be reflective of what the legislative leadership promised: that Florida would do it right!
Barney Bishop III is the president & CEO of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance, a center-right criminal justice reform organization that is law enforcement-centric. Sound policy that maintains public safety as Job #1 and which seeks to help individuals with behavioral healthcare issues will lead to less recidivism and crime. You can email Barney at Barney@SmartJusticeAlliance.org