Ten Myths the Florida Anti-Pot Lobby Is Using to Scare People About Medical Marijuana

Ten Myths the Florida Anti-Pot Lobby Is Using to Scare People About Medical Marijuana
Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Florida's anti-pot lobby is back. And just like in 2014, it's spreading straight-up lies about medical marijuana to try to frighten voters. Two years ago, Amendment 2 netted 58 percent of the vote — just short of the 60 percent it needed to pass.

That result likely had something to do with Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's scare campaign to shut the amendment down: Adelson spent more than $5 million to help fund the Drug Free Florida Committee, an anti-pot political action committee and PR campaign.

Now, with another medical marijuana amendment on the ballot this November, the Drug Free Florida Committee is back, but minus Adelson's largesse so far. This time, Mel Sembler, a former U.S. ambassador and major Mitt Romney donor, is the money man behind the push.

Last week, Drug Free Florida sent New Times one of its first mass mailers — and it is extremely silly. The list, titled "The Top 10 Reasons to Vote NO on Amendment 2," is chockfull of factual inaccuracies and half-truths straight out of the film Reefer Madness.

We debunked them so you don't have to do it yourself.

Myth 1: Don't vote for Amendment 2 because it's a "permanent" change

This is basically no different from saying "don't vote for Amendment 2 because it's a rule, and rules are bad." Drug Free Florida claims that because voters would be amending the state constitution in November, the change would be "permanent" and could never, ever be revoked. But this is silly on its face: Constitutional amendments are perpetually modified by the courts (we still can't agree on what the U.S. Constitution says), and can be modified by — you know — the exact same amendment process that got us Amendment 2 in the first place.

Also, the actual text of the bill gives the state health department tons of leeway to set and change many of its own pot-related rules, so the notion that Amendment 2 is somehow "written in stone" is simply silly.

Myth 2: "Caregivers" would be "dope dealers with storefronts"

Drug Free Florida wants to paint well-meaning medical cannabis users as feckless criminals. Case in point: If passed, the lobby's mailer claims, Amendment 2 would allow "caregivers" to buy weed on behalf of patients in the event that patients are unable to buy the marijuana themselves. (Kids, the disabled, or the elderly would all fit into that category.) Drug Free Florida claims said "caregivers" would have zero medical experience and would be akin to "dope dealers with storefronts." 

Except:

1. We trust caregivers without medical degrees to administer all sorts of other drugs to people all the time. Imagine if a lobbying group attacked your parents for trying to give you prescription antibiotics as a kid.

2. The bill forces the health department to issue ID cards to all caregivers, conduct background checks on them, and prohibits them from smoking the marijuana they obtain for their patients.

3. The bill also would force medical experts to put statewide caps on how much marijuana a caregiver could obtain for a given patient, rendering the entire dope-dealers-on-steroids argument moot.

Myth 3: You'd get weed from "budtenders," as opposed to pharmacists

Legally, a pharmacist can't give you marijuana, which does mean you likely won't be buying marijuana from someone with a medical degree. But that doesn't mean the state won't be actively watching who is selling medicinal weed: The bill's text forces the state to regulate the "issuance, renewal, suspension, and revocation" of a dispensary's license and also mandates the Department of Health must establish standards to ensure "proper security, record keeping, testing, labeling, inspection, and safety" of said medical weed.

And, as mentioned in the previous section, there will be statewide caps on what a patient's "adequate supply" would be, thus preventing people with medical-marijuana cards to buy up pounds of pot with no repercussions.

Myth 4: It's "de facto legalization"

Drug Free Florida repeatedly compares Amendment 2 to California's medical pot bill, which was enacted decades ago and has long been criticized for being too lenient on undercover weed dealers.

"In reality, the comparison is detached from reality,” Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, the group behind Amendment 2, told FloridaPolitics.com in June. “Florida’s Amendment 2 would be one of the strictest in the nation, and medical marijuana would only be provided to seriously debilitated patients when recommended by an actual physician. California has no such provision."

Myth 5: Bogeymen will market pot candy to your kids

"Amendment 2 specifically authorizes edibles and the pot industry manufactures them to look just like the junk foods your children know and love," Drug Free Florida writes. "In states like California, where medical marijuana is legally sold, children as young as 21 months are being rushed to the emergency room as a result."

Though it's true that, yes, there's been a slight uptick in marijuana-related ER visits as states have legalized medicinal weed, the Washington Post points out that the number of accidental weed ingestions is "relatively small compared to a host of other things that pose a danger to young children, such as pain medications, which are more likely to be in just about every household."

Also, the bill does not specifically allow the "pot industry" to market to anyone, let alone kids. Instead, it legalizes "food, tinctures, aerosols, oils, or ointments" for people who want the benefits of medical marijuana without necessarily smoking it. Edibles are especially great for children such as Charlotte Figi, whose seizures were famously cured with marijuana oil.

  Myth 6: Weed is stronger now than it's ever been

Drug Free Florida couldn't get through a ten-item list without trotting out this age-old urban legend. The group warns that pot is "not your father's Mary Jane" and is now ten times more potent than it was in 1972.

Astoundingly, this myth was debunked all the way back in 2000, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

The notion that pot has increased dramatically in potency is a DEA myth based on biased government data, as shown in a recent NORML report by Dr. John Morgan. Samples of pot from the early ‘70s came from stale, low-potency Mexican “kilobricks” left in police lockers, whose potency had deteriorated to sub-smokable levels of less than 0.5%. These were compared to later samples of decent-quality domestic marijuana, making it appear that potency had skyrocketed. A careful examination of the government’s data show that average marijuana potency increased modestly by a factor of two or so during the seventies, and has been more or less constant ever since.


Myth 7: The pot industry is "seedy"

The group claims that legalizing medical marijuana would let the "seedy elements of the pot industry" move in next door, which is basically the same rhetoric used to get old people all riled up about immigrants, LGBT folks, and Snapchat. Surprise: Drug Free Florida doesn't actually list what said "seedy elements" are, since there's ample evidence to show that legalized weed doesn't lead to crime. Since Colorado legalized marijuana, experts agree that marijuana's impact on crime in the state has been small.

Myth 8: Two thousand marijuana dispensaries would descend on Florida, outnumbering Walmarts

Drug Free Florida has been spouting this claim for months, enough for PolitiFact Florida to take the lobbying group to task for it. PolitiFact rates the PAC's claim "Half-True": Though the state Department of Health estimates that 1,993 marijuana dispensaries would pop up in Florida, PolitiFact says that number is just a rough estimate based on data based on what happened when Colorado legalized marijuana itself. More important, PolitiFact notes that the comparison to Walmarts doesn't actually matter. "That is more than the 840 Walgreens and 233 Walmart supercenters and discount stores in the state," it writes, "although the comparison seems like a bit of a red herring."

Myth 9: Doctors can't "prescribe" you weed, so it's clearly bad

Drug Free Florida claims that because Amendment 2 would require doctors to issue patients a "physician certification" for medical pot rather than a real "prescription," medical marijuana is somehow more dangerous than the totally safe prescription drugs that doctors otherwise give out like candy.

Two issues here: One, because the federal government still classifies marijuana as a "Schedule 1" drug, doctors would still be barred from writing a marijuana prescription. But that doesn't mean doctors aren't monitoring your marijuana usage — any good doctor still would be. The bill's text also requires a full medical examination before issuing a certification and for a patient to be suffering from a "debilitating medical condition."

Two: Just because someone writes you a prescription doesn't mean he or she is inherently being responsible about things. Florida still developed a pill-mill problem and an opiate addiction, after all.

Myth 10: Caregivers, again, are legitimized drug dealers

Drug Free Florida closes its list by claiming, again, that this year's version of Amendment 2 frees up caregivers to deal their devil weed to as many people as they want, compared to the 2014 version of the bill, which limited caregivers to five patients. This isn't necessarily true — the bill's text says the Department of Health can "limit the number of qualifying patients a caregiver may assist at one time and the number of caregivers that a qualifying patient may have at one time."


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