February 18, 2015 / Volume XXXVII / Issue I
The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative seeks to change the legal standing of medical marijuana in the state. This proposed ballot comes on the heels of Amendment 2, a bill that was shot down in the Nov. 4 election and would have decriminalized the use of medical marijuana for qualifying patients or personal caregivers in Florida. Amendment 2 would have added Florida to a list of 23 other states in the country where medical marijuana is legal. Supporters of the new initiative, which retains the end goal of Amendment 2, hope it will appear on the 2016 ballot.
“Because of the relaxed standards, the industry booms and marijuana culture as well as the economy surrounding it is really visible,” first-year Rebecca Caccavo said. Caccavo is a resident of California, where medical marijuana was legalized in 1996, with the passing of Proposition 215. “
“To me, it makes more sense to decriminalize it and medicalize it, or just simply legalize,” Caccavo said. “I feel if it’s just legalized for medical purposes, restrictions could make it hard to discern who is ‘worthy’ of legal and affordable access, resulting in no change in cursory drug arrests that hurt low income and communities of color.”
If the initiative becomes a bill, it would prevent physicians or caregivers from being “subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law solely for issuing a physician certification with reasonable care to a person diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions.” These medical conditions include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and any other medical issue for which “a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks.”
“The medicinal marijuana that is going to be used for pain is Charlotte’s Web. This [strand] does not contain the hallucinogen, which is a cannabinoid. Therefore it locks the cannabinoid receptors. The problem I have with it is whether it will be injectable or in a pill form. It needs to be standardized,” Professor of Plant Biology Elzie McCord said. “Because if you grow marijuana in your backyard or in a growth facility, you give it all the water and all the sun it needs because you want it to grow quickly. Plants don’t produce secondary metabolizers, which the cannabinoids are for us. It produces them for the protection of themselves; we just found other uses for them. Once you produce the ideal growing condition that you think it needs, the plant does not require the protection anymore so it doesn’t produce as many secondary metabolizers.”
Although many see the potential in the legalization of medical marijuana, supporters need to collect a minimum of 683,149 signatures in order to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.
“I think that there is a subset of people who appear to have good evidence that medical marijuana helps them,” Anne Fisher, program director of the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC), said. “I think that it’s like any other medicine, it’s got its pros and its cons … If you’re trying to help people with symptoms, any medicine they take is going to have side effects and is going to have some risks with it. So I think it’s no different than anything else.”