|Voters in the Sunshine State could get a chance to decide for themselves about medical marijuana — if the Republican-controlled Legislature will let them
A state lawmaker in Florida filed a joint resolution this week that would allow Floridians to decide for themselves in the 2012 election whether they want to legalize medical marijuana with a constitutional amendment. At this point, the Republican-controlled Legislature is all that stands in the way.
“That’s a compassion issue,” Clemens said, reports Whitney Ray at Capitol News Service
. “It’s an issue of people in this state that are going through tough times and a lot of physical pain and if they want to use this particular drug as opposed to a more heavy prescription narcotic I don’t think there’s any reason why we shouldn’t let them.”
“With 81 percent of Americans supporting allowing medical marijuana, it’s time Florida stops jailing its most vulnerable citizens for possessing and using a relatively harmless substance recommended to them by their physicians,” the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)
said in an August statement about the proposed constitutional amendment.
In March, a poll found that a big majority of Florida residents — 57 percent
— support the legalization of medical marijuana. The survey was done by Republican pollster Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates, the same firm that conducted polls for Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign.
|The Palm Beach Post News
|Rep. Jeff Clemens wants to give Florida voters the chance to decide for themselves on medical marijuana
The problem, as pointed out by Matthew Hendley at the Broward Palm Beach New Times
, is that both the Senate and the House have to pass the resolution by a three-fifths majority for the amendment to make it to the ballot.
Once it clears those two huge hurdles, the measure would still have a tough fight. Under Florida’s election rules, such a referendum would require 60 percent of the state’s voters to approve it before it became law.
If the issue does make it to the ballot and is approved by Florida’s voters (who, according to the polls, are friendly to medical marijuana), it would take effect on July 1, 2013.
Clemens’ eight-page resolution gets into some of the details of how Florida’s proposed medical marijuana program would work. Its language says that a patient must have been diagnosed with a “debilitating medical condition” by two doctors and can’t have more cannabis that “legislatively presumed to be medically necessary,” without explicitly setting that limit.
Patients aren’t allowed to “affect another person’s health or well-being” with their cannabis smoking, and patients would be prohibited from medicating in public. Workplaces would not be required to accommodate medical marijuana patients as employees, and patients would have to be at least 18 to participate, unless parental consent is given.
Patients with children wouldn’t have their kids taken away just for using medical marijuana — unless their “behavior creates an unreasonable danger” to them.
Caregivers would not face arrest, prosecution or disciplinary action from any professional licensing board for assisting with a patient’s use of medical marijuana.
If state or local law enforcement officials confiscate medical marijuana in the event of an arrest, the weed would have to be kept safe and never destroyed, and must be returned to the patient “immediately” if the person isn’t prosecuted, the charges are dismissed, or the defendant is acquitted.
A reality check is in order: The Florida Legislature is controlled by Republicans who aren’t very good at listening to the wishes of their constituents when it comes to medical marijuana.
Clements already introduced the resolution a few months ago during the 2011 session of the Legislature, but the bill failed to get a hearing, according to the MPP.