With the upcoming general election looming, I thought I would weigh in on 2014 Florida Constitutional Amendment 2, Use of Marijuana Under Certain Medical Conditions, from a law enforcement officer’s perspective. I have read the full language of the amendment, as well as the ballot language. They are included at the end of the article if you wish to peruse them.
Frankly, I am alarmed that under Article X, Section 29 (a) Public Policy sections (1), (2), and (3), all patients, personal caregivers, physicians, and marijuana treatment centers will be free from any criminal or civil liability under Florida law as it relates to the amendment. Of the seventeen states legalizing some form of marijuana, Florida would be the only one conferring civil immunity. Any reasonable person should be wary of such extreme blanket protections without yet knowing the future consequences of unwritten legislation and procedures.
Following the amendment’s Public Policy section, the bulk of the remaining amendment language instructs the Department of Health to build a marijuana production and distribution infrastructure, but the amendment gives no specific methodology or parameters for such an undertaking. Another cause for pause when dealing with such a complicated undertaking.
I will give you an example. Who can be a “personal caregiver?” According to the amendment, you have to be 21 years of age, have a DOH-issued identification card, and agree to assist a patient’s medical use of marijuana. Can you be a convicted felon? Can you charge unwitting patients exorbitant fees for your services? How much can you possess legally as a card-carrying caregiver—six bales in the bed of your Toyota Tundra? The answers here are “I dunno.” So why are the amendment authors so quick to say one cannot be held criminally or civilly liable?
In addition, why would I vote in the affirmative for something that gives me no particulars? How long can a patient receive medical marijuana with the “physician’s recommendation?” There is no apparent limit. It is not a prescription. How will we track and enforce fraud with the as-yet unknown documentation that doctors are supposed to provide?
I know the whole Pill Mill thing has been brought up about Amendment 2, but remember that some of the same bad doctors we trusted with oxycodone will now be trusted to prescribe marijuana. Not that they will kill people like they did with pharmaceutical opiates. It’s just that we saw a wave of unscrupulous doctors put lives and their medical licenses on the line to make money and now they would be able to prescribe away with impunity because they cannot be held criminally or civilly liable under Florida law. Can you say recreational marijuana—The Doctor is In?
Proponents say that medical marijuana can relieve symptoms of debilitating diseases. Legally FDA-approved marijuana is already available in the form of Marinol®. It treats cancer, AIDS, and other patients suffering debilitating diseases from nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, and weight loss. Recently, Florida legalized the Charlotte’s Web strain of cannabis for treatment of seizures. Is a hallucinogenic, smoked form of THC really medically necessary?
Both my parents suffered from debilitating diseases from which they died. While I would have supported their decision to seek symptom relief by a medical form of marijuana if it had been legal, Amendment 2 is a reckless solution to a problem. I understand that good people want to ease others’ pain, but I feel this is more of an issue for the Legislature to explore and not one for pop culture. Charlotte’s Web is a fine example of the Legislature moving forward on a need with caution.
Were you aware that in Colorado, marijuana businesses cannot use the regular banking system because cannabis is still federally illegal (FDIC and all that), so the “industry” is a cash-only affair. The same will hold true here. Marijuana purveyors will have two things criminals want right under one roof: drugs and money. Florida has an infamous history where it comes to narcotics and violence, in extremis. Nearly every one of the “home invasion robberies” we respond to are just plain drug rip-offs. As a cop in the Gunshine State, I can see this scenario may threaten public safety.
What I have articulated are only some of the known issues Floridians would be facing with the passage of Amendment 2. As a citizen, I believe I have a reasonable fear of the unintended consequences of this constitution amendment. From my position as a law enforcement officer, I think this proposed legislation is irresponsible.
Ballot Language: Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not authorize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.
ARTICLE X, SECTION 29. Medical marijuana production, possession and use.
(a) PUBLIC POLICY.
(1) The medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or personal caregiver is not subject to criminal or civil liability sanctions under Florida law except as provided in this section.
(2) A physician licensed in Florida shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law for issuing a physician certification to a person diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition in a manner consistent with this section.
(3) Actions and conduct by a medical marijuana treatment center registered with the Department, or its employees, as permitted by this section and in compliance with Department regulations, shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law except as provided in this section.
(b) DEFINITIONS. For purposes of this section, the following words and terms shall have the following meanings:
(1) “Debilitating Medical Condition” means cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.
(2) “Department” means the Department of Health or its successor agency.
(3) “Identification card” means a document issued by the Department that identifies a person who has a physician certification or a personal caregiver who is at least twenty-one (21) years old and has agreed to assist with a qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana.
(4) “Marijuana” has the meaning given cannabis in Section 893.02(3), Florida Statutes (2013).
(5) “Medical Marijuana Treatment Center” means an entity that acquires, cultivates, possesses, processes (including development of related products such as food, tinctures, aerosols, oils, or ointments), transfers, transports, sells, distributes, dispenses, or administers marijuana, products containing marijuana, related supplies, or educational materials to qualifying patients or their personal caregivers and is registered by the Department.
(6) “Medical use” means the acquisition, possession, use, delivery, transfer, or administration of marijuana or related supplies by a qualifying patient or personal caregiver for use by a qualifying patient for the treatment of a debilitating medical condition.
(7) “Personal caregiver” means a person who is at least twenty-one (21) years old who has agreed to assist with qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana and has a caregiver identification card issued by the Department. A personal caregiver may assist no more than five (5) qualifying patients at one time. An employee of a hospice provider, nursing, or medical facility may serve as a personal caregiver to more than five (5) qualifying patients as permitted by the Department. Personal caregivers are prohibited from consuming marijuana obtained for the personal, medical use by the qualifying patient.
(8) “Physician” means a physician who is licensed in Florida.
(9) “Physician certification” means a written document signed by a physician, stating that in the physician’s professional opinion, the patient suffers from a debilitating medical condition, that the potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the patient, and for how long the physician recommends the medical use of marijuana for the patient. A physician certification may only be provided after the physician has conducted a physical examination of the patient and a full assessment of the patient’s medical history.
(10) “Qualifying patient” means a person who has been diagnosed to have a debilitating medical condition, who has a physician certification and a valid qualifying patient identification card. If the Department does not begin issuing identification cards within nine (9) months after the effective date of this section, then a valid physician certification will serve as a patient identification card in order to allow a person to become a “qualifying patient” until the Department begins issuing identification cards.
(1) Nothing in this section shall affect laws relating to non-medical use, possession, production or sale of marijuana.
(2) Nothing in this section authorizes the use of medical marijuana by anyone other than a qualifying patient.
(3) Nothing in this section allows the operation of a motor vehicle, boat, or aircraft while under the influence of marijuana.
(4) Nothing in this law section requires the violation of federal law or purports to give immunity under federal law.
(5) Nothing in this section shall require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place.
(6) Nothing in this section shall require any health insurance provider or any government agency or authority to reimburse any person for expenses related to the medical use of marijuana.
(d) DUTIES OF THE DEPARTMENT. The Department shall issue reasonable regulations necessary for the implementation and enforcement of this section. The purpose of the regulations is to ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients. It is the duty of the Department to promulgate regulations in a timely fashion.
(1) Implementing Regulations. In order to allow the Department sufficient time after passage of this section, the following regulations shall be promulgated no later than six (6) months after the effective date of this section:
a. Procedures for the issuance of qualifying patient identification cards to people with physician certifications, and standards for the renewal of such identification cards.
b. Procedures for the issuance of personal caregiver identification cards to persons qualified to assist with a qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana, and standards for the renewal of such identification cards.
c. Procedures for the registration of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers that include procedures for the issuance, renewal, suspension, and revocation of registration, and standards to ensure security, record keeping, testing, labeling, inspection, and safety.
d. A regulation that defines the amount of marijuana that could reasonably be presumed to be an adequate supply for qualifying patients’ medical use, based on the best available evidence. This presumption as to quantity may be overcome with evidence of a particular qualifying patient’s appropriate medical use.
(2) Issuance of identification cards and registrations. The Department shall begin issuing qualifying patient and personal caregiver identification cards, as well as begin registering Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers no later than nine months (9) after the effective date of this section.
(3) If the Department does not issue regulations, or if the Department does not begin issuing identification cards and registering Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers within the time limits set in this section, any Florida citizen shall have standing to seek judicial relief to compel compliance with the Department’s constitutional duties.
(4) The Department shall protect the confidentiality of all qualifying patients. All records containing the identity of qualifying patients shall be confidential and kept from public disclosure other than for valid medical or law enforcement purposes.
(e) LEGISLATION. Nothing in this section shall limit the legislature from enacting laws consistent with this provision.
(f) SEVERABILITY. The provisions of this section are severable and if any clause, sentence, paragraph or section of this measure, or an application thereof, is adjudged invalid by any court of competent jurisdiction other provisions shall continue to be in effect to the fullest extent possible.