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Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Tom Jackson Columns

Amendment 2 is backdoor to legalize pot

— If Amendment 2 did only what its proponents claim for it, Jessica Spencer would not have taken leave from her job in Manatee County, would not be crisscrossing the state in a one-woman education campaign, and absolutely would not recently have been in the Heritage Pines clubhouse addressing the skeptical membership of the Pasco Reagan Republican Club.

But it doesn’t, and so she has, she is and she did. Because, contrary to what you have been led to believe, Amendment 2 would not simply enshrine in the Florida Constitution access to unfiltered cannabis for victims of certain strictly defined medical conditions. It would, rather, amount to de facto legalization of recreational pot, as it has in California. And, says Spencer, who knows the subject from long years working alongside Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Jack Espinosa Jr. — the drug court judge — and now as project director of the Substance Abuse Coalition in Manatee County, “Florida’s proposal is more lenient than California’s.”

Moreover, as Spencer — head of the Vote No Oon 2 campaign — meticulously lays it out, the entire yes-on-2 campaign is one elaborate misdirection play.

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Warning against blindly accepting claims of pot’s medical benefits, Spencer cites National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws founder Keith Stroup, who laid out the path to legal pot in a 1979 interview with Emory University’s student newspaper.

“We are trying to get marijuana reclassified medically. If we do that ... we’ll be using the issue as a red herring to give marijuana a good name.”

That effort continues in Florida, where tales of harrowing pain, seizures, tremors and other maladies relieved only by applications of pot in its natural state — not distilled into FDA-approved drugs — dominate the yes-on-2 propaganda. The bullet points of Spencer’s presentation, using the plain language of the proposition, lay bare the desired outcome. As written, Amendment 2:

Creates a drug-dealer loophole by legalizing “caregivers” who “assist patients’ medical use of marijuana” whose only qualification is that they are 21 years old.

Establishes a “pill-mill” loophole by defining what constitutes a center for producing and distributing medical marijuana, but applies no restrictions on where they cannot be located.

Allows the use of pot for any purpose. Instead of prescriptions, which doctors could not write without violating federal law, Amendment 2 requires “patients” to get a physician’s “certification” that they suffer from a medical condition that could benefit from the use of marijuana. In other medical pot states, a claim of sleeplessness — plus the willingness to fork over a “consultation” fee — has been sufficient to acquire a physician’s blessing.

Fails to prohibit legal purchases by minors, or require parental consent.

Prohibits “physicians, patients, caregivers and employees” from being “subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law.” Does that mean if you’re injured by someone operating a car under the influence of pot, you’re powerless to make a claim? Maybe.

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Hang on. Haven’t advocates proposed a blue ribbon panel to guide implementation of Amendment 2? Spencer is wary. Trying to affix guardrails to the document’s excessively broad language after the fact guarantees only full employment for plaintiff’s lawyers. Perhaps that explains the keen interest of John Morgan, Esq.

Spencer urges her audiences to “vote on the amendment, not on the sentiment,” adding, “Yes is forever. No means not right now.”

Of course, there are those among us who believe, ardently, legalization would be a good thing, and we ought to get on with it. If wrapping it in a pharmaceutical facade helps get the job done, so much the better. To them it seems wise just now to say: You want legalization, let’s have that discussion. Just don’t try to slip it through the back door, because we’re starting to catch on.

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