Florida Governor and Cabinet Oppose Medical Marijuana
Cabinet to oppose medical use of marijuana
By BILL KACZOR Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE -- A citizen initiative to legalize medical use of marijuana drew opposition Wednesday from Gov. Lawton Chiles and the Florida Cabinet.
At the urging of law enforcement officials and the head of a group opposing the proposed constitutional amendment, the panel unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Floridians to reject the proposal.
``We think it's a trick . . . the camel's head in the tent's door on the bigger objective of legalizing all drugs not only in Florida but in America,'' said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Tim Moore.
Fort Lauderdale-based Floridians for Medical Rights, chaired by Toni Leeman, is circulating petitions in an effort to get the proposal on the November ballot.
``This type of political posturing sacrifices serious health needs of Floridians and deprives them of medical treatment many physicians consider legitimate,'' Leeman, a paralegal for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a telephone interview from the ACLU's state office in Miami.
Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida ACLU, also criticized the Cabinet action.
``We saw public policy developed in a vacuum of ignorance,'' Simon said in a news release. ``This is nothing more than a ploy to try to prevent the issue from appearing on the ballot.''
The Florida Constitution Revision Commission two months ago rejected a similar proposal on a 30-1 vote. That decision, however, does not affect the initiative.
Supporters must obtain 435,100 signatures to place it on the ballot. They have collected about 10,000 so far, Leeman said.
The proposal, based on similar initiatives passed in California and Arizona two years ago, would allow patients with cancer, AIDS, anorexia, glaucoma and other illnesses to use marijuana if a doctor certifies the drug is medically appropriate in their cases.
Leeman said smoking the drug alleviates nausea and loss of appetite associated with AIDS and cancer chemotherapy, and prevents blindness from glaucoma.
Moore told the Cabinet that a synthetic form of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, provides the same medical relief without risks associated with smoking. Proponents say the pills don't work as well as smoking.
``This is a deliberate ploy, playing on the voters' compassion to the sick and dying,'' said Betty Sembler of St. Petersburg, president of Save Our Society from Drugs.
``We cannot and will not stand by and watch the future of our state and our nation sabotaged,'' she told the Cabinet. ``We are determined to draw the line in Florida sand: Not here and not us.''
Christy McCampbell, chief of narcotics enforcement for the California attorney general's office, told the panel marijuana use has escalated in his state since passage of the medical marijuana and not just by sick people.
``Anyone of any age can virtually get marijuana in the state of California now,'' she said. ``It has been legalized. . . . There's no need for a doctor to do an examination or to maintain records.''
She said a doctor's prescription is unnecessary because the California measure uses the term ``recommendation.'' The Florida proposal says use must be ``certified'' by a doctor.
Moore presented the Cabinet with a report titled ``Marijuana Legalization: A Very Bad Idea for Florida,'' upon which the resolution is based.
``Legalization of marijuana will certainly send a wrong message for our citizens, especially our children,'' Moore said.Back