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Debate Over Amendment 2 Heats Up As Early Voting Begins

Voters across Florida are deciding if it will become the 24th state, and the first in the Southeast, to have a comprehensive medical marijuana program.

In a nutshell, Amendment 2 would allow the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases, as determined by a licensed Florida doctor. The amendment was proposed by John Morgan, a trial attorney from Orlando.

“I think people know that it works, number one,” Morgan told WTVT-TV in Tampa. “I think number two, most people are very compassionate. And what we’re talking about here is an alternative to some really poisonous narcotics.”

Morgan speaking on. He and other Amendment 2 backers are hoping to build on this year’s legislative passage of “Charlotte’s web:” a single strain of non-euphoric marijuana to treat epilepsy and other disorders.

State Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Fort Walton Beach, sponsored the measure and said there were two turning points that got it passed.

“One, and I think the most significant, is when the Florida Sheriffs Association said ‘We support this bill.’ Because we had done the work to ensure that there was not a probability for abuse. And second, when the Florida Medical Association basically changed their minds and agreed that there was some value.”

Gaetz spoke at a forum on medical marijuana earlier this month in Pensacola, sponsored by the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida. While championing Charlotte’s Web, he remains against Amendment 2. The key difference, he says is the extent to which there’s an open door for recreational use.

Bill Perez suffers from epilepsy, to the point where he’s unable to work as a commercial driver. He believes medical marijuana could help with his seizures.

“As I approach it from so many aspects, there are so many ways to see this whole process because it’s being stopped at certain levels,” said Perez. “We’ve got to be able to take those first steps, and be able to say ‘Let’s give this a try, let’s see what it can do.’”

After the Legislature refused to place medical pot on the November 4th ballot, supporters gathered more than the required 683,000 petition signatures to bypass lawmakers. 60% of voters must approve the amendment. Opponents, including Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, believe approval would open a huge legal can of worms.

“Our concern is what’s occurred in other states with like legislation,” said Morgan. “Opening the door to the basically unfettered administration of this drug. I think we need to take measured steps with this, and I think the money and hoopla we’re spending on some of this, I would say turn towards the medical research.”  

Other Sheriffs around the state, such as Pasco County’s Grady Judd, have voiced concerns that children could be harmed if they get their hands on a parent’s medical marijuana. But Amendment 2 author John Morgan calls that argument hypocritical.

“The very argument is the exact same argument the people that want to have gun control use,” Morgan said. “’We don’t want our children to get their hands on guns.’ So what I would tell Grady Judd is this: to lock up your medical marijuana in your gun rack. Then you could kill two birds with one stone.”

If passed, the Legislature would team with the Florida Department of Health to establish just how the amendment would be implemented. However, possessing marijuana would remain a violation of federal law.