Florida To Vote In November
In November 2014, Florida voters will get to cast their ballots on a state constitutional amendment that, if passed, will legalize the limited medical use of cannabis in the state of Florida.
Medical research on cannabis, more commonly known as marijuana, has shown it to be effective in treating certain illnesses and disorders including cancer, glaucoma and epileptic seizures. Medical marijuana has also been found to be effective in managing symptoms such as the pain of peripheral neuropathy.
What Do The Voters Think?
While the majority of independent and Democratic voters in Florida support the legalization of marijuana for personal use, the majority of conservative Florida voters remain opposed. Yet Democrats, Republicans and independents all overwhelmingly support legalization of marijuana for medical use — as high as 82% of the Florida public is in favor, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released in November 2013.
Despite conservative Florida politicians’ historical opposition to legislation that would legalize the use of cannabis for any purpose, March 5, 2014, marked a landmark moment when a Florida House panel voted for the first time to legalize a certain strain of marijuana for limited medical use.
Formally termed HB 843, the bill is now being called the Charlotte’s Web bill after the most famous brand of this particular marijuana strain. Originally developed in Colorado, a state that has been a frontrunner in the marijuana legalization movement in the United States,Charlotte’s Web was named after a young Colorado girl, Charlotte Figi, whose extreme epileptic seizures, considered medically untreatable, were dramatically reduced through the use of cannabis.
Charlotte’s Web was developed specifically for medical use, especially for children like Figi and others who need the medical benefits cannabis offers but not its euphoric high. Charlotte’s Web is high in cannabidiol (CBD), the drug’s main medicinal component, while being low in tetrahydrocannabinol — better known as THC, marijuana’s principal psychoactive compound.
Conservative Support In Florida
Conservative support for medical marijuana has been increasing in Florida in recent months. Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Palatka, considered one of Florida’s most conservative legislators, even filed an amendment to increase the legally allowable amount of THC in high-CBD strains of marijuana in order to increase the drug’s effectiveness. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, committee chairman and sponsor of the Charlotte’s Web bill, asserted that Florida residents can no longer afford to take polarized positions on the issue of marijuana legalization. While recreational marijuana use is a separate matter with significantly less public support, cases like Charlotte Figi’s have made the potential benefits of medical marijuana too compelling to ignore.
Opponents of the Charlotte’s Web bill point to several problems with the bill as currently written, chiefly that it does not provide for proper research and clinical trials, and that it would allow Florida citizens the legal right to use marijuana not just for severe or life-threatening conditions but for minor ones as well, thereby potentially opening the door to legalizing the drug for personal, recreational use.
Among those opposing the bill are Florida Governor Rick Scott, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and head of the Florida Sheriffs Association Grady Judd. These opponents cite statements made by organizations such as the Florida Medical Association and the American Cancer Society regarding doubts about medical marijuana’s effectiveness and concerns regarding the potential for public harm if cannabis is legalized. Judd has stated that Florida’s current reduction in crime to its lowest rate in over 42 years would be reversed if cannabis were legalized.
Link to official American Cancer Society statement on medical marijuana and legalization: http://documents.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/001976-pdf.pdf
Supporters of the bill include many Florida Democratic legislators along with Democratic gubernatorial candidates Nan Rich and Charlie Crist, the advocacy group People United for Medical Marijuana, and national organizations like the American Public Health Association and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Perhaps most notably, public support in Florida for the legalization of cannabis for medical use continues to increase as more and more current research supports the drug’s medicinal benefits.
About the Author: Catherine Avril Morris writes on subjects ranging from astrology to parenting, grief, and romance novels. Her role in the 1993 cult classic film Dazed and Confused may have laid the foundation for her interest in current events related to the legalization of marijuana. Find her at www.catherineavrilmorris.com.