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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Opinion from David Jolly: Say no to medical marijuana amendment

On the November ballot there is a very important question for every mother, father, teacher, minister and community leader: Do you want drugs to be more accessible or less accessible in our community and in Florida?

I want drugs to be less accessible, and therefore I strongly oppose and will vote against Amendment 2. I hope you will do the same.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law because there is no currently accepted medical use for the drug and because of the physiological impact it has on individuals. Marijuana decreases memory, impairs motor skills and contributes to paranoia, anxiety, schizophrenia and other emotional and psychiatric disorders. Marijuana is also illegal because of its high potential for abuse and dependence.

Yet some have argued that marijuana has medicinal value that addresses pain control. Indeed research has shown that a specific compound in the marijuana plant, properly delivered, can have clinical value for a patient. As someone with a family member confronting chronic pain management, I sympathize greatly with that view.

But Amendment 2 does nothing to safely and responsibly address this limited clinical value. In fact, Amendment 2 compromises the long-standing process we use in the United States to approve medicines for personal use.

Amendment 2 specifically exempts doctors, caregivers and distributors from liability for any harm caused to an individual as a result of marijuana use. Under Amendment 2, doctors will not provide prescriptions for the use of marijuana, only recommendations. Pharmacies will not provide the drug to patients; newly created dispensaries will. And because it is not a medicine controlled by traditional drug-approval procedures, its active ingredients will vary unpredictably and dangerously from plant to plant and shop to shop.

This is why the vast majority of doctors have found smoked marijuana to be unsuitable as a medicine, and why organizations like the Florida Medical Association oppose Amendment 2. They agree with the research evaluation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that based upon multiple studies marijuana’s efficacy in treating illnesses does not outweigh the risk to the individual using it.

So the paradox on the ballot is whether we protect the public from the deleterious effects of a drug with dangerously unregulated content or defend an individual’s choice to use marijuana. You can’t achieve both through the Amendment 2 ballot initiative.

But you can achieve both through a radically reformed FDA process.

The process of FDA approval of prescription and non-prescription drugs requires testing and review through the agency’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Supporters of Amendment 2 rally around the argument that the FDA is simply a bloated agency that complicates and delays the approval of groundbreaking medicines. They are right. It is. The FDA is woefully inefficient, and the approval process for medicines should be reformed to provide more streamlined and timely consideration of medicines.

However, the current bureaucratic inefficiencies within the FDA are not sufficient to justify putting the substantive jurisdiction of drug approval in the hands of electoral voters with no medical or pharmaceutical training.

No medicine — be it marijuana, disease specific drug therapies, or simple non-prescription drugs like aspirin or cold medicine — should be approved by popular vote. To do so puts each of us as consumers and patients at greater health risk, not less.

Put simply, the consideration of marijuana as a medical therapy belongs in a reformed FDA, not on a ballot.

November will define the future of Florida’s acceptance of marijuana and define our state’s path toward making drugs either more accessible or less accessible.

I hope drugs will be less accessible in our community and urge my fellow voters to defeat Amendment 2.

David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, represents the 13th District in the U.S. House.

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