Florida’s Medical Marijuana Amendment a Dopey Idea

Let me say right out of the gate that I’m in favor of some form of marijuana legalization.  I would support H.R. 499, which would remove marijuana from coverage under the Controlled Substances Act.  States would still be free to regulate or ban marijuana as they chose, but it would no longer be a federal issue.

As a political issue, it seems a foregone conclusion.  States that are legalizing Marijuana for either medical or recreational reasons are popping up at each election cycle.  Gallup shows that the majority of Americans now support marijuana legalization.  A mixed bag of Institutions and people now support marijuana legalization. This past year, the editorial board of the New York Times endorsed marijuana legalization; however the editorial board of the conservative flagship magazine National Review beat them to the punch by 18 years.  From Rand Paul, to David Koch to Pat Robertson; many figures on the right have spoken out in support of marijuana legalization.

However where we are now, is that even though several States have legalized medical marijuana, it’s still illegal at the federal level.  This means even though if you are in a State that has some sort of marijuana legalization, and can smoke a joint in front of your local sheriff, a federal agent could walk right up behind you and arrest you.

After all, marijuana is still illegal everywhere in the country under federal law.

What this means in the real world is that pot is still illegal, but various states have decided to facilitate breaking the law, whether it’s under the rubric of “medical” marijuana or in a more honest version, like Colorado where it’s available for recreational use.  This is the rankest sort of hypocrisy that would normally be a red flag to the young people who are more likely than not favor some version of pot legalization.  But in the case of pot…eh…they’ll let the hypocrisy slide.

And it is hypocrisy because for all practical purposes, “medical’ marijuana doesn’t exist.  Oh I realize there have been studies that have shown benefits to glaucoma patients, and for some chemotherapy patients, it’s allowed them to get their appetites back in the recovery from each chemo session, but that’s not who makes up the typical medical marijuana patient.  California provides a good case study since it’s had medical marijuana longer than any state in the nation. As writer David Frum noted recently:

“To understand where the marijuana debate is going, it’s important to appreciate that “medical marijuana” is a laughable fiction. In California, the typical user of so called medical marijuana s a 32-year-old white man with no life-threatening illness but a long record of substance abuse.

Under Colorado’s now-superseded medical marijuana regime, only 2% of those prescribed marijuana suffered from cancer, and only 1% from HIV/AIDS. Some 94% cited unspecified “pain” as the justification for their pot prescription. False patients find unscrupulous doctors: in Oregon, only 10 practitioners write the majority of all marijuana prescriptions in the state.” 

Even pro-pot Reason magazine noted that in California:

The top three reasons physicians gave for recommending marijuana were “back/spine/neck pain” (31 percent), “sleep disorders” (16 percent), and “anxiety/depression” (13 percent).

In other words, total bullshit reasons.

So now, medical marijuana has come to Florida.  Amendment 2 to the Florida constitution is on the ballot for Election Day, November 4th. Like other medical marijuana proposals, Florida’s is a sham for the purpose of legalizing pot under a fig leaf of medical diagnoses.  And this is the fig leaf from the defining of the phrase debilitating medical condition:

The measure defines a “debilitating medical condition” as cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV, AIDS, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease “or other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.

So in other words, anything, like undiagnosed back pain, anxiety, and trouble sleeping would warrant a “prescription” for pot. So as far as Florida’s medical marijuana amendment goes, sorry but I’ll (puff puff) pass.

This constitutional amendment, like others in the State of Florida, are not the product a grassroots movement of people in the state, it’s the product of special interests.  In this case, the special interest is the PAC People United for Medical Marijuana, which is the creation of Florida attorney John Morgan.  For those unfamiliar with Florida, Morgan is the state’s equivalent of Boss Hogg.  He runs the most powerful personal injury law firm in Florida, and the power of his advertising dollar buys compliance from local Florida media.  Morgan has personally contributed over 3 and a half million dollars to the PAC, which is more than half the amount the PAC has raised.John Morgan

Morgan has a public reason for supporting medical marijuana, a paralyzed brother who depends on pot to dull the pain from his accident. That could be a perfectly legitimate reason if not for the timing of it.

Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate for governor, works for Morgan in his law firm.  In fact, it was under Morgan’s tutelage that Crist, a former Republican who became an independent when he lost his senate primary run against Marco Rubio, was baptized as a Democrat.  All Crist had to do was reverse every single public position he ever had; a simple enough task for Crist.  Now Florida is a purple state trending blue. Obama won the state twice, but Florida also put in a Tea Party backed Republican governor, Rick Scott, in 2010.  How can that be?

Florida’s governor’s race is on what are nationally off year elections.  Although nationally this is an off year election since no President is on the ballot, in Florida, we elect governors.  Since the turn out for off year elections tends to run older, whiter, and more Republican, it’s no surprise that Florida gets a bit schizophrenic, turning red and electing a Tea party backed governor and senator (Marco Rubio) during off year elections like 2010, and re-electing President Obama and Democratic senator Bill Nelson during a Presidential election year.

So this year, it’s an off year election.  Now if you were a high rolling Democratic fundraiser and player, and had your employee running for governor, a man with no convictions at all, ready to serve and obey you, how could you increase Democratic turnout to get your guy over the top?  Let’s see, what would be an issue that might draw out young people and get them to the polls during an off year election that most of them have no real interest in?

I guess it’s a real head scratcher.