The group opposing the medical marijuana constitutional amendment is ramping up its efforts.
The VOTE NO on 2 campaign on Friday released the first in a series of advertisements aimed at setting the record straight about what Amendment 2 could mean for Floridians. The 60-second spot — dubbed “Three Things” — shows how California’s medical marijuana efforts have panned out.
The advertisement features three findings based on the California model. It references a Journal of Drug Policy Annual Report that showed only 3 percent of medical marijuana users had conditions like cancer and AIDs and points to a San Francisco Journal report that says “there are more pot shops than Starbucks.”
It also highlights comments made by the author of California’s law, who said it is now a joke.
“Facts, research and evidence from California’s pot experiment proves that this so-called ‘medical’ marijuana initiative failed miserably in its promises to the voters,” said Christina Johnson, spokeswoman for the VOTE NO on 2 Campaign. “Florida cannot afford to become the California of the east and have their history repeat itself in our state by buying into the misleading rhetoric.”
Vote No On 2 led the charge against a similar constitutional amendment in 2014. That proposal received 58 percent support, just shy of the 60 percent needed to become law. Drug-Free Florida, the fundraising committee backing the opposition campaign, spent more than $6 million in the months leading up to the 2014 election.
In 2014, the group said the initiative had too many loopholes and would have been medical in name only.
The amendment allows individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician to use medical marijuana. It also calls on the Department of Health to register and regulate centers to produce and distribute marijuana and issue identification cards to patients and caregivers.
The 2016 amendment defines a debilitating condition like cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.
Supporters of the amendment are hopeful that 2016 will be the year it becomes law. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed 80 percent of Floridians said they would vote for the amendment, and it showed support across all demographics.
Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, the organization behind this year’s Amendment 2 effort, responds: “In reality, the comparison is detached from reality. Florida’s Amendment 2 would be one of the strictest in the nation, and medical marijuana would only be provided to seriously debilitated patients when recommended by an actual physician. California has no such provision. In this 60 second ad, these people are devaluing HIV/AIDS patients, telling patients who qualify, who likely cannot drive, they should have to travel great distances to obtain their medicine, and outright lying in their attempt to compare Florida’s amendment 2 to Californias medical marijuana program.”
Through an email to supporters, Pollara refutes each of the findings of the study listed in the ad, point by point:
In the ad opponents to Amendment 2 stated, “only 3 percent of medical marijuana users had conditions like cancer or aids,” this data is collected from only NINE medical marijuana specialty practices during THREE MONTHS in 2006.
Not only is this a very small sample size that is a decade old, but the authors themselves state the goal of the study is to provide “some interesting insights into the characteristics.” Furthermore, according to the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, by April 2017 of the potential 440,552 medical marijuana patients, 56.2 percent will be cancer patients. There were 98,650 people living with AIDS/HIV in the state of Florida in 2012 according to AidsVu. Then, in 2015, Florida reported having the highest number of new HIV diagnosis in the nation.
The No on 2 people make a crude comparison of medical marijuana treatment facilities to fast food restaurants and convenient stores.
First, they should be making comparisons to family practices, VA offices, walk-in clinics, pharmacies and maybe even veterinarians’ offices. Secondly, they are implying that Mothers like Anneliesa Clark, whose daughter, Christy, suffers from a seizure disorder should have to drive hours to obtain medical marijuana. Scott Calhoun is a 100 percent military service connected, permanently disabled US ARMY veteran. Scott should not have to drive from Fort Pierce to Miami to obtain medical marijuana for his PTSD.
The third point to scare Florida’s voters that No on 2 people make is drug dealers will be running storefronts in Florida like California.
Since California passed their loose medical marijuana law in 1996, 23 other states and DC have all passed medical marijuana laws, and none of them look like California. There is a multistep process written into the amendment which will ensure that Florida will not look like California. The rules regarding the dispensation of medical marijuana would be formed by the department of health and the Legislature, as well as local control.