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Norm Kent: Amendment 2 brings reason, common sense to cannabis laws

The voters of Florida have an opportunity on Nov. 4 to amend our constitution and make cannabis legally available to patients with debilitating medical conditions. It’s a cause you should support, because it’s an initiative that heals rather than harms, helps rather than hurts.

Long overdue, after four decades of criminal prosecutions, passage of this amendment will put your use of marijuana in the hands of physicians you trust. The strategic and glorious part of this proposal is that it will allow patients to acquire their medicine with a written certification from their doctor, just as you get prescriptions for other private, medical needs.

Amendment 2 allows The Florida Department of Health, not the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to determine who may lawfully access cannabis. It means that instead of getting arrested first and having to assert a medical necessity defense later, you will have a lawful right to possess and consume marijuana without the fear of criminal prosecution.

Regrettably, in the course of any campaign, fictions are infused and facts get distorted. No example is more glaring than the misleading and misguided advice being disseminated by attorney Ian Christensen, his “Health Law Services” law firm, and his non-lawyer legal administrator Chris Ralph. Collectively, they are negligently, carelessly, and irresponsibly giving out the false legal advice that marijuana is already legal in Florida.

Abraham Lincoln once wrote that “some people are thought fools and remain silent. Others speak and remove all doubt.”

Marijuana is not legal today in Florida in any shape, size or form. Possess it or consume it, cultivate it or distribute it, and you can be arrested, jailed, and criminally prosecuted. Chapter 893 of the Florida Statutes governing the consumption and sale, possession and ownership of drugs, is in full force. Christensen needs to go back to law school. Based on the advice he is giving, he would flunk Criminal Law 101.

The best way to modify Florida’s restrictive drug laws is to support and pass Amendment 2. This law will not only allow a citizen to possess marijuana medicinally, you will be able to purchase it from lawfully established medical marijuana distribution centers, established, licensed and sanctioned by the state.

If a cop saw you with a joint, you would not have to call a bondsman from a jail. You would simply hand the cop a medical certification card from your wallet.

The decisions you make over the treatments you choose for your health ought to be made by you and your physicians, not your police department and juries. Amendment 2 will make that happen for marijuana.

Few people know more about this subject than I do. It was over a quarter of a century ago when a judge acquitted my client, Elvy Mussika, a Hollywood grandmother, of cultivating marijuana in her backyard, based on a defense of “medical necessity.” Yes, she won, but at what price? First, she had to go to jail and risk a trial to secure her freedom. All she wanted was to treat her glaucoma.

Last year, Manatee County deputies raided Cathy Jordan’s home, seizing and destroying the small amount of cannabis she was cultivating to use medically for Lou Gehrig’s disease. A thoughtful prosecutor declined prosecution, acknowledging that Cathy was living with a debilitating condition that medical cannabis helped arrest.  But her freedom was won only after she was faced with an arrest.

Under Florida law, and with a less enlightened prosecutor in charge, Cathy and her caregiver husband Robert could still face charges of cultivation.  That makes no sense, personally, politically, or philosophically.

If we pass Amendment 2, Florida citizens will end that insanity. Uniform law, not individual discretion, will govern the debate. Pass Amendment 2 and your physician, not the county prosecutor, will determine who gets to use medical cannabis in Florida.

Norm Kent is the Chair Emeritus of the Board of Directors of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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