Medical Marijuana Backer Says Revised Florida Amendment Better

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Lakeland – The leader of the campaign for a state constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana arrived Monday in Lakeland with reasons for optimism.

Ben Pollara, campaign director of United for Care, said 77 percent of likely Florida voters favor Amendment 2, according to recent internal polling. Constitutional amendments need 60 percent approval to pass.

United for Care also announced Monday the first public endorsement of Amendment 2 by a Republican state legislator – Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg.

Yet Pollara knows nothing is certain. He directed the Yes on 2 campaign in 2014, when highly favorable early polling numbers eroded and the measure fell short of passage with 57.6 percent support.

Pollara met with The Ledger’s editorial board Monday to answer questions about the proposal. Although the amendment has the same number as in 2014, Pollara said, the measure has been revised to address criticism of overly broad language.

“When you write something, every time you have a chance to edit it it gets a little bit better,” he said.

Pollara fielded questions on such concerns as increased access to marijuana for children, scientific studies on marijuana’s benefits and the potential for more impaired drivers.

Pollara brought an information packet stressing differences between the current proposal and the 2014 version. Some points implied in the earlier measure have been made explicit, he said.

The phrase “medical conditions” replaces “diseases” to clarify that doctors may recommend marijuana for illnesses not labeled as diseases. More precise language has been added to address concerns about blanket legal immunity for doctors who recommend marijuana, Pollara said.

And the Florida Department of Health will have the authority to limit the number of patients per caregiver.

Noting that more than 20 states have already legalized marijuana in some form, Pollara said studies show cannabis use among teenagers in those states generally has not spiked compared to the national average. He said illegal marijuana is already easier for teens to obtain than alcoholic beverages.

“The black market doesn’t check IDs,” Pollara said, adding, “It’s cheaper and easier to go into the boys’ bathroom at school” for marijuana than to get it from someone who obtained the drug legally.

Pollara made a few references to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who as president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association in 2014 became perhaps the state’s most prominent critic of Amendment 2. Clearer language about which conditions qualify for marijuana use, Pollara said, remove what Judd in 2014 called a loophole large enough to drive a truck through.

Pollara also said it’s incorrect to suggest Amendment 2 would yield more marijuana dispensaries than McDonald’s or Starbucks outlets in Florida, as Judd predicted in 2014. That and other dire projections assumed Florida would follow the model of California, which legalized medical marijuana use in the 1990s but failed to establish strong regulations.

“One difference between this law and California is this requires legislation action,” Pollara said. “California is the biggest mess because of legislative inaction.”

Cities and counties would be free to pass ordinances limiting the number of dispensaries inside their boundaries, Pollara said.

Pollara was asked why Amendment 2 is needed even though the Florida Legislature passed a law in 2014 allowing the use of medical marijuana. He said that law only authorized the use of a form of cannabis oil bred to be low in THC – the compound that produces psychological effects – and only for a narrow range of conditions.

Research and anecdotal evidence shows some patients benefit most from marijuana high in THC and other compounds, he said.

Asked why marijuana in smoked form should be legal, Pollara said inhalation is the fastest delivery method and allows the most precise control of dosage. Even so, he said, many patients would instead use vaporization, tinctures, oils or edibles.

“Patients should have access to whatever delivery method works best,” Pollara said.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Medical Marijuana Backer Says Revised Florida Amendment Better
Author: Gary White
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Website: The Ledger