Do you like smoking weed? I do. At the moment, though, as you may know if you've ever been pulled over and swallowed a roach or hidden a sack in your sock, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, meaning the DEA lists it in the top tier of dangerous drugs right along with narcotics like heroin. It's worth noting that cocaine is a Schedule II drug and that this scheduling scale is closely linked to the severity of sentencing in drug cases.
Marijuana, however, is the interesting exception in its class in that it is the only Schedule I drug that has been legalized in multiple states, with some, like California, allowing it only for medicinal use, while others, such as Colorado, have opted for full-on legalization. And next month, the Sunshine State might become one of the newest states to adopt such a policy regarding marijuana, depending upon what happens with Amendment 2.
But before you start feeding the grinder, let's hunker down and talk some numbers and what they mean. How likely is this amendment to pass come Election Day? What does it mean if Florida becomes the first Southern state to pass a medical marijuana amendment, and what does it mean if it doesn't? And what precisely does this amendment say in the first place?
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What in hell does this amendment say, anyway?
Amendment 2 would make medical marijuana legal in Florida. The letter of the law would be that doctors could issue certifications for medical marijuana to people with "conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient." Think California: medical cards and medical dispensaries with taxation and regulation.
One of the possible distinctions between Florida's amendment and the example of California and its statute is that Florida's Department of Health is very keen on regulating medical marijuana -- from the doctor's office to the dispensary -- much more tightly than it's regulated in California. That means it'll likely be a bit tougher than simply walking into your general practitioner's office and saying you have a recurring headache (chronic headache would almost definitely be too thinly veiled) to get a card. It also means there will probably be significantly stricter zoning laws regarding the distance between schools and dispensaries, so don't expect to be able to pick up a quarter-ounce on Washington Avenue across the street from Fienberg-Fisher or anywhere near any other elementary, middle, or high school.
How likely is it that medical marijuana will be heading to a dispensary near you?
Well, that's become a trickier question to answer of late. Over the past year, polls have shown up to 88 percent of voters in favor of the measure, but as the gubernatorial race has heated up and Florida's political landscape has grown increasingly divided, the numbers have been sliding closer to the margin of error. One of the more recent polls conducted by the Graham Center at the University of Florida had the voters split 48-44 in favor of the amendment, and because it's a constitutional amendment rather than a regular old bill, it'll need at least 60 percent of the vote to pass.
Come November 4, what makes or breaks Amendment 2 is that elusive voting bloc between the ages of 18 and 25. That's not particularly good news for anyone hoping to see medical marijuana in the Sunshine State anytime soon, considering young voters in Florida are exceptionally unreliable when it comes to standing up and being counted, especially when it comes to a midterm election with a governor's race that has been characterized by mudslinging and bitching about fans.
What happens if it doesn't pass?
A few months ago, that question might have been seen as purely academic because support for Amendment 2 was so strong. But as the 11th hour draws nearer, the question mark looms a bit heavier. If 2 doesn't get the votes, it'll be at least another two years before we see another amendment like it in Florida. And because the fate of Amendment 2 will more than likely go the way of the governor's race -- yes, if Crist wins; no, if Scott stays in office -- we'll probably have to wait four years because Scott would almost certainly do everything in his power to keep that possibility off the table during the rest of his stay in the governor's mansion.
Why is this so important this election season? It's about more than marijuana.
Rick Scott has proven to be one of the most embarrassingly worthless governors in this state's history. Amendment 2 was worked onto the ballot to bring out the youth vote, which is all but essential to Crist's hopes to unseat Scott. If the young rascals don't make their way to the polls this November and pull that lever, it is a veritable certainty that Florida will remain in the death grip of terminal stupidity for another four years. We will continue to be that backwater peninsula that stands as a testament to the slow-stepping South that wards off anything that sounds like progress, regardless of whether it comes from the vox populi or not.
The implications are just as relevant if Amendment 2 does receive that 60 percent of the vote it needs. If Florida becomes the first state in the South to pass a medical marijuana amendment, it could be the first major step in changing this state's image from that of an ultra-conservative swampland full of crazies to something slightly closer to respectable. "Respectable as a result of medical marijuana? I don't think so..." Think again.
This nation is slowly but surely shifting to a more progressive, accepting ideology. Increasing numbers of Americans -- especially young Americans -- applaud states with the sense to vote for legislation that decriminalizes benevolent drugs, just like we applaud states with the sense to recognize gay marriage or outlaw the death penalty. The times, as Mr. Zimmerman wrote, they are a-changin'.
Florida needs to crawl out of the dark ages and stop relying so heavily on that primitive reptilian brain that seems to cling to the most antiquated notions. This generation of Floridians seems poised to bring about those changes. They aren't changes that could ever come to pass in one fell swoop. The state is entirely too diverse for that sort of shift in momentum. But medical marijuana would definitely be a fine start in that direction.
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