Why 5 former Florida Supreme Court justices oppose Amendment 2

florida supreme court chambers (Large)

As former Florida Supreme Court Justices, we once took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the State of Florida.

Today, we urge all Floridians to protect and defend our constitution by once again voting “No” on Amendment 2.

The amendment’s sponsors say they fixed the problems that caused Floridians to reject a similar amendment two years ago. We have read this revised amendment and have studied its impact. This amendment is still defective and again should be rejected. Here are five problems we see with Amendment 2:

First, Amendment 2 is a much broader authorization for marijuana use than its sponsors might suggest. The amendment is not limited to doctors prescribing marijuana as a compassionate, alternative treatment for debilitating medical conditions. Instead, it makes marijuana available merely on the “recommendation” of any doctor who believes its use “would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

This subtle difference between allowing a doctor to prescribe marijuana as a compassionate, alternative treatment and a person obtaining marijuana on a doctor’s recommendation that its use “would likely outweigh the potential health risks” is significant. And though the amendment lists several serious conditions for which this “recommendation” may be given, it adds a very broad provision allowing the use of marijuana for conditions “ … of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated …”

The result is an amendment that will open wide the door to marijuana use regardless of its need as a compassionate, alternative treatment option.

Second, this marijuana will not be sold at our pharmacies, but at new “Medical Marijuana Dispensaries,” referred to as “pot shops” in states that have passed similar measures. State economists estimate there will be over 2000 such pot shops in Florida — that’s more pot shops in Florida than McDonald’s, 7-11’s and Starbucks combined.

Ironically, even though sponsors say the new version of Amendment 2 provides for narrower use of pot than the version voters rejected two years ago, these economists predict more marijuana users and more pot shops if this version passes than the previous version. One need only look at the experience with such pot shops in other states to understand the unintended consequences of such an amendment.

Third, Amendment 2 includes a right to privacy for medical marijuana users over 18 years old. As other states have experienced, an unintended consequence of such a provision will be the impact in our high schools.

Since most youths turn 18 before graduating from high school, the amendment will create a new pipeline for pot into high schools throughout Florida.

Fourth, Amendment 2 creates the role of medical marijuana “caregiver.” Florida’s Department of Health estimates that, if Amendment 2 passes, there will be approximately 130,844 medical marijuana caregivers.

The version voters rejected two years ago limited caregivers to five medical marijuana “patients.” This large number of caregivers increases the likelihood that caregivers under Amendment 2 will simply be people who can legally deal drugs. Yet another undisclosed, unintended consequence?!

Finally, and most importantly, the use of marijuana does not belong in our Florida Constitution.

Approval of Amendment 2 would make Florida one of only three states with the right to marijuana in its state constitution. Other states that have authorized medical marijuana have done so by statutory laws. This approach has allowed the legislatures in these state to modify their laws to make them more effective and to deal with a host of unintended consequences.

If we enshrine Amendment 2 in our Florida Constitution, the people of Florida will forfeit their ability to legislatively improve the law and to address the inevitable unintended consequences. In fact, “medical marijuana” is already available in Florida.

Several years ago, our elected representatives in the Florida Legislature legalized medical marijuana by making low-THC marijuana available to treat seizures; and, they recently gave patients with terminal conditions access to marijuana to alleviate pain during their last year of life.

If broader access to marijuana is needed, Floridian should assure our elected representative do so legislatively.

Legalizing marijuana for medical purposes is an issue on which reasonable people disagree. But all should agree that imbedding Amendment 2, as written, into our constitution is a very bad idea. Other states have experienced a host of unintended and undesirable consequences when they have legalized marijuana use. The same will occur here. Given this indisputable fact, we believe Floridians should agree that this amendment does not belong in Florida’s Constitution.

Instead, the use of marijuana should continue to be addressed through the legislative process.

As former Florida Supreme Court Justices who love Florida and its great Constitution, we urge voters to protect and defend our Constitution and the fundamental principles of representative form of government by voting “No” on Amendment 2.


Parker Lee McDonald, Chief Justice 1986-1988; Justice 1979-1994 Stephen H. Grimes, Chief Justice 1994-1996; Justice 1987-1997 Major B. Harding, Chief Justice 2000-2002; Justice 1994-2009 Raoul G. Cantero, III, Justice 2002-2008; Kenneth B. Bell, Justice 2002-2008.


Guest Author

One comment

  • Ron Watson

    September 20, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Your vote counts just as much as their flawed opinion, so does mine!
    One would think former Florida Supreme Court Justices, who “once took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution”, would have a better grasp on proposed changes. One would hope they might look at both sides of an issue in a non-political, fair and balanced manor when rendering their collective opinion. Unfortunately, their article is completely biased, simply regurgitating the “Vote No on 2” talking points. Even though I am a non-lawyer, much less a former Justice, as a patient advocate I feel compelled to respond.
    Let’s address the points made in this article opposing the “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions” or more commonly known as Amendment 2 (A2):
    1) The former Justices conveniently downplay “debilitating medical condition” in speaking about eligible patients. For the record, the specifically listed conditions in A2 are cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, MS, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient. This is not a wide open door, but does allow physicians to make proper medical decisions.
    2) They also failed to mention physicians are not allowed to “prescribe” a substance listed under Schedule I, so the term used is “recommend” or “physician certification”. The existing Florida law on Low-THC medical cannabis does not use the term “prescribe” for this exact reason. Also because of Schedule I, it cannot be picked up at a pharmacy. This is why Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs) are created in A2.
    3) The reddest of all herrings is the 18 year high school argument. They yet again fail to mention other language in A2 which states, “6) Nothing in this section shall require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any correctional institution or detention facility or place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place.”
    4) A “Caregiver” must be 21 years old, registered with the Department of Health (DOH) and be issued an ID card. The DOH is authorized to limit the amount of patients they can help and they are prohibited from diverting any medication. Have you ever had your relative pick up a prescription when you were too sick to go to the pharmacy? Think caregiver.
    5) Finally, I use to agree with the Justices this doesn’t need to be in the Constitution. However, after watching our legislature fail to adequately address this issue over the last 3 years, it is the only way to proceed forward. The Justices should all know that there will be a legislative implementing bill to address more details. It will likely be similar to the present Low-THC law, which requires a minimum 30 day existing patient/physician relationship, a 45 day supply limit, background checks, seed-to-sale tracking, testing, labeling, security, etc..
    With all due respect to our former Supreme Court Justices, you know what they said about belly-buttons and opinions, everybody has one. But more importantly, everybody also has one vote per opinion, including Former Supreme Court Justices. Vote yes on A2!
    Ron Watson
    President of Watson Strategies

Comments are closed.


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