Could Florida be the next to Legalize Medical Marijuana?

December 11, 2009 – The drug has long been illegal in the state but recent website_01changes in federal policy have citizens wondering if a change could happen soon. Until recently federal laws had banned the sale of the drug as well but with the new laws allowing states to dictate regulation of medical marijuana and the success of advocacy groups legalizing it’s sue on 13 states that may change very quickly. Before now even in states where medical use was legalized federal agencies could supersede these laws and prosecute those who possessed or bought the drug. The changes came after it was decided that federal opposition to state regulations was a waste of federal resources.

In states like Florida changes like these raise the interest in seeking legalization. For many organizations it’s as if the largest obstacle has been removed emboldening the interest in getting medical use passed in the state. According to such organizations the legalization of medical marijuana has benefited through tax dollars, reduced youth drug abuse and decreased alcohol abuse but for the opposition there is still the concern of potential crime increases and recreational use rather than medical purposes. Citing the difficulty the state already faces because of lax prescription laws and a subsequently high rate of their abuse those against legalization feel that it could only make such problems worse as physicians in the state are already viewed as far too lax in their prescription of existing drugs.

The Obama administration announced earlier this year that it would not prosecute medical marijuana outlets that follow state laws, instead leaving regulation and enforcement to the states. And a Florida group has begun a petition drive to introduce a ballot initiative seeking to legalize medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.

There are other indications the stigma of marijuana is waning somewhat.

The American Medical Association last month urged the federal government to reconsider its classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use and called for more research. It is suggesting the government remove marijuana from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, which equates it with heroin and cocaine.

Additionally, some advocates propose that legalizing marijuana would eliminate the illegal drug trade with Mexico, where violent drug cartels rake in millions of American dollars.

People United for Medical Marijuana has begun a Florida petition drive to force a ballot initiative by 2010.

The organization has collected 31,243 signatures and $9,288 in donations. PUFMM needs more than 700,000 signatures and $5 million in donations for its campaign. The group is using social networking Web sites and volunteers to reach the goal.

Nathan Ward, 31, is leading the effort in Brevard County. His would like to use marijuana as a natural painkiller to treat two ruptured discs in his spine.

“I can’t use it because it is illegal,” Ward, an inspector for Harris Corp., said. He added that the side effects of traditional pain medication, which can include addiction, drowsiness, hallucinations, twitching and confusion, prevent him from taking prescription painkillers.

“The side effects are too severe to sustain for any length of time,” he said.

He rejects the argument that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to more recreational use.

“It’s going to be used either way,” he said. “It’s just the prohibition hasn’t worked in general.”

Economist Sean Snaith said that despite rational arguments in favor of medical marijuana, including its taxability, it’s unlikely its use will be approved in conservative Florida.

“I just don’t know if the genetic makeup of the state could handle that,” said Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness. “But in this budget environment, who knows?”


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