Florida saw two bills this year for medical marijuana. Both were shot down in committee, but activists are still hitting the pavement. This time, they've got a tall order: 676,811 signatures for the 2014 ballot.
Kim Russell, the chair of People United for Medical Marijuana, made a case today for medical marijuana in the Sunshine State on the Orlando Sentinel. "This is one of the safest pain medications available, used all over the world, but Floridians can't use it to treat serious illnesses," says Russell. "Our state's population has one of the largest shares of retirees, and we can't give them legal access to a medication that is safe, effective, affordable — and one of the least addictive pain killers available."
Not everyone is excited about the possibility of "safe, effective, affordable", non-addictive medicine. Bruce D. Grant, Florida's former Drug Czar, calls the case for medical marijuana "a wolf in sheep's clothing. By peddling cannabis as medicine," Grant says, "advocates seek to reduce the perception of harmfulness, deceiving the public into full legalization."
Grant continues, callling marijuana "not safe, not healthy and not medicine. It is an illegal drug with potential for abuse."
On the other side of the fence, Russell argues.that "the federal government grows and distributes marijuana for research; however, it continues to declare that it has no medical value."
Russell says that laws can be changed "immediately" if voters demand it - and getting them to speak up is the challenge. She mentions that many Floridians have gone to trial for marijuana related charges and have been treated justly - many times having charges dropped. This sort of glimmer of hope is what Florida needs to find over 670,000 signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot.
Though Floridian marijuana activists have a long journey ahead of them, activists know that any step forward is a good one. Any time the community can rally together and work toward the goal of helping patients - it's a worthy task. Just like Johnny Green said recently on The Weed Blog about Idaho's efforts, there are a lot of things accomplished by a signature drive.
Good luck, Florida!