In November, Florida voters will decide whether to approve a constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana in our state.
Many times over the past several months I’ve been asked for my opinion on this issue from a law enforcement perspective. I would like to share my thoughts with all of you.
I believe that any substance being administered for medicinal purposes must undergo a thorough review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prior to being approved for use. This is the only way to determine appropriate controls, dosage quantities and dosage intervals, and assure users that the product they are ingesting is safe.
Our federal government still considers marijuana to be illegal. Possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000 on the first offense. When it comes to selling marijuana, under federal law anyone convicted of selling 50 kilograms or less may be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, which is a classification of drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
I can also tell you that if Amendment 2 is approved I expect us to see the return of the problems we endured with pill mills a few years ago. Florida was the epicenter of the nation’s prescription drug epidemic. Unscrupulous doctors set up clinics and passed out pills like candy to addicts who came from several states away in search of an easy high. Should this amendment be approved we will see marijuana dispensaries proliferate the way pain clinics did before Florida shored up its prescription drug laws. I don’t think any of us want Florida to become the medical marijuana vacation destination.
I also have concerns from a law enforcement standpoint. Due to testing limitations it is inherently more difficult to prosecute someone who was driving impaired due to other drugs being present in their system as opposed to someone who was driving with the drug of alcohol in their system. In addition, monitoring which marijuana growing and
distribution operations are operating legally and which are not will require significant law enforcement resources.
The amendment language is also concerning. It provides physicians with tremendous latitude in issuing certificates for its use. Certificates may be issued for any patient condition deemed appropriate by the physician. That opens the door for doctors to issue certificates to anyone with a toothache or a backache.
And did you notice that I used the word certificate and not the word prescription? That’s because only FDA-approved drugs can be prescribed. As I mentioned earlier, marijuana has not undergone the rigorous safety and effectiveness review process to earn FDA approval. It is for all of these reasons that I do not support Amendment 2.