Advocates Push for Medical Marijuana in Florida
November 14, 2012 | WMFE - An advocacy group is asking Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to make it legal to prescribe medical marijuana in the state.
The Cannabis Action Network presented Bondi with a petition Tuesday asking the Attorney general to change the classification of marijuana as a schedule one illegal drug.
Jodi James is Executive Director of the Cannabis Action Network in Florida.
“Until the Attorney General makes that decision, then everyone else’s hands are tied including the medical community.” James said.
The group says removing cannabis from the schedule one drug list will allow Florida scientists to research its effects on cancer and let doctors prescribe it.
If Bondi makes the change, the Legislature will then have to pass new laws regulating the drug. “That will allow the Florida Legislature to have a reasonable conversation about who qualifies as a patient and how we are going to make sure that they have access to their medicine.” James says.
The Cannabis Action Network says growing scientific literature shows that marijuana does not fit the definition of a schedule 1 drug under current law.
“You might note that a schedule 1 drug has no medicinal value accepted in the United States.” James says.
She says the designation also means the drug can’t be used safely under a doctor’s guidance and that there’s a high risk for abuse, She says neither of those apply to cannabis.
Eighteen other states and the District of Columbia already allow marijuana or cannabis oil to be used medicinally.
On Election Day, voters in Colorado and Washington chose to legalize the drug altogether including for recreational use.
Cannabis Action Network treasurer Robert Ohlwiler says changing state policy could benefit Florida economically. He says the state could save millions of dollars per year just by no longer incarcerating pot smokers. He says incarceration costs about $20,000 per prisoner per year.
“We need to revisit reducing penalties to be more in line with the crime and also to do a lot better return on investment for our taxpayers.” Ohlwiler says.
Florida Cannabis Action Network president Catherine Jordan lives with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
She says she credits cannabis treatment with prolonging her life and she says, her goal is to no longer be considered a criminal.
“Florida has a medical necessity defense, but I had to be arrested to use it. This is a life-and-death situation for me. And I do have a right to life.” Jordan said.
Meanwhile, some opponents of legalizing marijuana say the medical benefits patients get from its ingredients can be achieved through pills or other sources.
They also worry that legalization for medical purposes leads to legal recreational use which was approved in several states last week.
Bondi could choose to change the classification for marijuana, leaving the issue to the Legislature or she could refuse the group’s request completely. Or, finally, she could open up the issue for public input before making a decision.
Under Florida law, Bondi has 30 days to respond to the group’s request.