Volume 4, Number 12 - March 25, 2014

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Akeem Brunson
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Decision On Prescription Pot In The Hands Of The People

By Akeem Brunson

Floridians will vote this November on an amendment allowing the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases. For those of you who think that this may be the license to toke up at your own free will, think again. The law would only allow Floridians with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician to smoke weed.

“We wanted to create a law that would allow individuals in Florida to use medicinal marijuana without the fear of being criminalized,” said Ben Pallara, who is with the Orlando based non-profit organization, People United for Medical Marijuana. Pallara is the campaign manager with United for Care initiative that spearheaded the signature drive to get the measure on the ballot.

If passed, the amendment will call for the state to create a department to regulate and issue licenses for those who qualify. 

In January, People United for Medical Marijuana turned in 786,368 signatures to the Florida Supreme Court approved the medical marijuana initiative to go on the November ballot. That number far exceed the required 683,000 signatures. Last semester many students saw canvassers on campus soliciting signatures for the petition leading to the ballot measure that would alter Florida’s constitution. 

“In general the student body seemed very receptive to medical marijuana,” said George Vasquez, a United for Care Campaign solicitor collecting petitions at [North Campus recently]. “A lot of people support the issue whether they would have supported marijuana use or not.” 

The Florida law is expected to have strict regulations.

The proposed amendment protects qualifying patient, physicians, and personal caregivers from any civil and criminal liabilities or sanctions. It does not decriminalize marijuana laws in the state. According to NORML.org, a national organization that advocates for the legalization of marijuana,  Florida is one of the states that has some of the harshest laws related to marijuana. Currently, possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor that holds a one year sentence and a maximum fine of $1,000 and as much as a 15 year sentence for up 25 plants with a maximum fine of $10,000. Last year, the state passed HB 49, also known as ‘The Bong Ban’ it restricts the sale of bongs and pipes with the intended use for drugs.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott,  is against the legalization of medical marijuana. While Ex-Governor Charlie Crist, running for governor now as a Democrat, has rallied in support of medical marijuana. 

The Miami Herald recently reported that the Florida House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice recently voted to approve passing out the bill to legalize a strain of marijuana for medical purposes, with an amendment to raise the amount of psychoactive ingredients allowed by law — to make it more likely the drug will be effective.

Miami Dade College student Emil Costa, who studies in the School of Entertainment & Design Technology at North Campus thinks legalization will lead to less abuse and more regulations. He’s for loosening restrictions on marijuana use overall.

"If there's a medical reason like terminal cancer that [can help people, it should] be kept regulated, I'm all for that,” Costa said. “I want the industry to be taxed and I want the state to acquire money from it for children to go to school."

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