GUEST EDITORIAL: A Medical Pot Black Hole

Two years ago, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana by more than 72 percent.

It’s clear Florida backs the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Yet two years later, government continues to do whatever it can to thwart the will of voters. It’s not unlike what it has done with two earlier constitutionally mandated funds for affordable housing and land conservation.

In the latter two cases, though, funds were quickly enabled and promptly pilfered by lawmakers. This time around, theft seems irrelevant. The amendment does not fund medical marijuana — only enable it.

Here’s the wording of the amendment:

“Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.”

That’s all it says. Yet lawmakers are doing everything they can to waylay the process, probably because they’ve not yet engineered a significant method to divert funds to themselves.

Following the amendment’s success, the Legislature hedged its bets the next spring and passed a law making smoking medical marijuana illegal. Whether or not we agree with medical marijuana, can’t we agree that the delivery method is inconsequential?

A recent circuit court ruling overturned the law banning smoking of medical pot. The Florida Department of Health immediately appealed that ruling. Who knows how long the issue will be hamstrung in court?

And now lawmakers were rebuked again a week ago again by a Tallahassee circuit court ruling that the state’s “cap” on legal marijuana growers runs afoul of the medical marijuana amendment, and more. Judge Charles Dodson wrote, “Such limits directly undermine the clear intent of the amendment, which by its language seeks to prevent arbitrary restriction on the number of MMTCs authorized to conduct business in the state. The amendment mandates the availability and safe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients.”

He also wrote that new law is unconstitutional because it requires that marijuana growers cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana, or a fast track to a monopoly in layman’s terms. He also wrote that the law improperly restricts who can and cannot join the ranks of growers.

The ruling could give the go-ahead to hundreds of businesses. As is, lawmakers have carefully carved up the state for 14 separate growers.

It’s a much more streamlined process for lawmakers to seek campaign contributions from 14 mega-growers than twisting the arms of legions of smaller ones dotting the rural landscape of Florida. Economists say the business will generate more than $2.5 billion in the next decade. High times, indeed, for those on the inside.

This ruling, too, will be challenged. The long-awaited promise of medical marijuana will continue to spin its wheels for those afflicted — making millionaires out of the beneficiaries and miscreants out of the benefactors.

Legislators want the medical marijuana sweepstakes winners beholding to the House and Senate, not the voters who backed them at the polls.

 

This guest editorial was originally published by the Ocala Star Banner, a sister newspaper of the Daily News within Gatehouse Media.

Source : http://www.nwfdailynews.com/news/20180820/guest-editorial-medical-pot-black-hole

593