Opposition mounts to Florida medical marijuana amendment

In what many call an unnecessary constitutional amendment, Florida voters will once again be asked to vote on whether or not the use of medical marijuana should be expanded to people with certain medical conditions.

The Nov. 8 referendum marks the second time voters have been asked to weigh in on this issue. In 2014 a similar amendment was defeated, falling just 2 percentage points short of the 60 percent majority needed to pass.

While proponents of the measure say changes to the language of the bill have closed any loopholes that could have allowed for misuse of the drug, those speaking out against it say that’s not true.

Christina Johnson, a spokeswoman for the opposition campaign “Vote No on 2,” said “it’s the same old thing.”

“Those who were against it in 2014 are against it now,” she said.

Medical marijuana is already legal in the state of Florida under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, which allows for the use of non-smoked, low-THC cannabis by patients with cancer, certain seizure disorders and those who are terminal. Amendment 2 would not only expand that list to include several other illnesses, but it also includes stronger, smoked versions of the drug and its distribution through pot dispensaries. Also, by passing it as an amendment to the Florida Constitution, rather than through legislative channels, the measure could only be altered through a further amendment.

The State Board of Missions of the Florida Baptist Convention has resolved to oppose Amendment 2 and has further called on Florida Baptist pastors to “encourage their church members to defeat the amendment.”

Mike Hasha, director of missions at the Ridge Baptist Association in Winter Haven, is also encouraging pastors to educate their congregations on the dangers of the amendment. Hasha is addressing this matter and others through a series of online videos that talk about how to deal with these types of cultural issues from a biblical worldview.

“Pastors have got to address the false narrative the medical marijuana people are putting out there, that it’s for medical use,” he said. “They’re lying, and they know it.”

Hasha and others fear the passage of Amendment 2 will be the first step toward the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the state of Florida, as it has in other states like Colorado and Washington.

Already, police officers in some Florida cities, such as Orlando and Tampa, have the choice of issuing a ticket to people in possession of marijuana instead of arresting them.

Working against the argument that marijuana has medicinal use is the fact that the Food and Drug Administration, while supporting research into the possible benefits of the drug, does not have any evidence that marijuana is effective for the treatment of any illness. It remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug—with no medical use, high potential of abuse and severe safety concerns. As such, doctors will be unable to prescribe medical marijuana to patients but can merely recommend it.

Daniel Middlebrooks, senior pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Plant City, is afraid the proliferation and probable abuse of marijuana will follow in the footsteps of the role alcohol has played in tearing apart the lives and families of those who partake.

“As a U.S. chaplain for over 22 years and in the medical field for four, I have witnessed firsthand the devastating impact marijuana has on a person, their family and everyone involved in that person’s life,” he said in written remarks.

Johnson said it’s important for people to educate themselves on medical marijuana and understand the ramifications of its strength and accessibility under Amendment 2.

For more information online, visit  www.voteno2.orghttp://www.dontletfloridagotopot.com and https://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Medical_Marijuana_Legalization,_Amendment_2_(2016).

Florida Baptist Witness Reporter Nicole Kalil can be reached at 904-596-3169, nkalil@goFBW.com and on Twitter @FBWNicole.

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