Florida Needs Marijuana Reform

After Colorado and Washington State outright legalized marijuana in the last election it's time for the State of Florida to get on the road of drug law reform.

With a huge elderly population marijuana should be made medicinally available when prescribed by a legitimate physician. I reject the federal government's claim that marijuana has no medicinal value. I have personally spoken to people whose pain and suffering from degenerative diseases have been relieved by medicinal marijuana. If marijuana has no medicinal value, why does the government hold the patent for synthetic THC, the substance in cannabis that makes you high when smoked or ingested?

Florida's spending hundreds of millions to jail, try and incarcerate those caught with small amounts of marijuana. We are spending multi-millions to prosecute people for a non-violent crime that harms no one.

It's time for Florida to decriminalize marijuana. In the city of Philadelphia those charged with possession are not arrested but are required to pay a fine. The city accepts credit cards. Philadelphia is realizing millions in revenue from an activity that will take place whether it's illegal or not. Polling I have seen suggests that 63 percent of Floridians don't believe citizens should be arrested and jailed for possession of minor amounts of marijuana.

I recognize that in conservative Florida outright legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana is a long way off but it has the potential to generate billions of new revenues which could fund our schools or go to pay off state debt.

Since serious drug law reform is an impossibility in the current Florida State legislature, citizens should turn to the constitutional amendment process in 2014 to change the status quo. Constitutional amendments in Florida require 60 percent of the vote for passage. The process ultimately requires just south of a million valid voter signatures. It is a herculean task. I am happy to say I have worked on six winning constitutional amendment ballot initiatives in the Sunshine State.

I think the prospects for getting a medicinal marijuana constitutional amendment on the Florida ballot next year and perhaps a companion decriminalization constitutional amendment are good. The pro-marijuana initiatives in Colorado and Washington State were well-funded and well-run.

The prospect of a pot initiative on the 2014 ballot is particularly delicious because it will make every Florida candidate that year take a stand on the issue.

State Representative Katie Edwards, a Democrat from Broward County has blazed the trail with a bold bill she introduced in the house to put medicinal marijuana on the 2014 ballot. Tight ass Republicans in the House won't move Edwards' bill, but she's laid out the proposal Floridians will have the opportunity to vote for in November of 2014.

While I will cop to smoking marijuana on occasion in the past I prefer a very dry vodka martini with blue cheese stuffed olives, please. Think of the pain and suffering we can soothe, the lives we save by avoiding a criminal record for mere possession and the billions of revenues marijuana could ultimately bring to the Sunshine State.