No, you can’t have marijuana yet. But be patient, that joint you want to bogart is right around the corner.
On Nov. 8, 2016, Florida citizens voted to allow medical marijuana in our state. While it is limited to a certain number of specified debilitating conditions, there is also an exception, which empowers doctors to broaden the candidate pool for good cause shown. That may mean you.
Already, built into the statute is an exemption for anyone living with HIV. Why, for the first time we may have guys bragging about being positive. Not only do you get all the good steroids to build up your immune system, but you can now score some excellent bubble hash with high THC levels as well. Oh, the parties you can throw- but wait!
On a serious note, while the law has passed and became effective on Jan. 3 of this year, the dissemination of any medical marijuana to anyone is on hold while the Department of Health crafts the statewide rules for its distribution. That can take a while, and that is why the agency is travelling statewide to hold public hearings on the best way to implement the law.
The good thing about the new law is that the legislature and the health agency must put those rules in place and implement them within nine months, or you, as a citizen, will have a right to get cannabis on your own simply with a note from your doctor. Me, as a lawyer, if the state fails to act, on a timely basis, I will have an absolute right to sue them for you.
By building this safeguard into the law, you can expect we will get rules, but based on what we are seeing so far, we may be getting rules that are limiting and unfair, ones that do not express the will of the voters. What’s ‘shaking’ out is a monopoly for the powerful, not a new industry for the people.
Amendment 2 had a higher approval rating than almost any candidate that sought office, and I don’t mean that as a pun. Cannabis medicalization won 72 percent of the vote, but cities are not hurrying to put regulations into place. They are stalling, passing moratoriums. While some of their reasons make sense, on one hand, they could be playing with your rights on the other.
You see, while the state has up to nine months to come up with guidelines, they can do so in a shorter time. If their rules are enacted in May, and you live in a city, which has passed a moratorium on dispensaries until July, then your constitutional right to use marijuana as a medicine will be illegally denied by that municipality for at least two months. It then becomes lawyer time.
It’s understandable that many cities want to impose a moratorium on dispensaries in their communities until they see what the state regulations will be. However, legislators and city commissioners must start treating marijuana as a medicine, not a menace. It’s coming to Main Street, and these small-minded municipalities drafting ordinances restricting the prospective locations of medical marijuana treatment centers to fringe corners of their communities are short sighted.
I know a little bit about this topic. I have served as the Chairman of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and I am currently the vice chair. I have been doing this my whole life, since I was a college senior at Hofstra University. What my mom and dad thought was a childhood indiscretion has now become my lifelong achievement. Thirty states have decriminalized, medicalized, or legalized. We are ending the drug war that wrongfully arrested, unjustly prosecuted, and unconscionably incarcerated so many for so long.
There is a new day in America. Kids on skateboards smoking a joint won’t be stopped and searched, detained and denied their civil rights. Parents with children suffering from ALS or MLS won’t have to hide their medicine any longer. A soldier dealing with PTSD won’t have to go to trial and risk losing VA benefits because he smokes cannabis.
The world will be a safer place, and our government will prosper. The planes and trains will still run on time. Well, if they don’t it won’t be because an engineer is high. Nothing about the new law stops a state agency from establishing rules and regulations for their employees.
If you want to know what you can do to make the new constitutional amendment fairer, let your legislator know that you will not stand for a monopoly that makes a few corporations very rich. Let the Department of Health know that you want rules which empower many entrepreneurs to open businesses that dispense marijuana lawfully.
Our state, our governor, our legislature, all seems headed in the wrong direction. They are talking about letting only seven farms grow cannabis to serve the entire state, and these entities will then control every facility that can open. It would be clearly limited, frighteningly restrictive, and undoubtedly inhibit fair pricing. We may need to start a revolution against the law if that happens.
In Wilton Manors, the city commission passed a law, which unduly restricts free enterprise, limits business opportunities, and inhibits reasonable access to cannabis. Only Julie Carson has stood up against it. Why? Pot got more votes in this community than any of you did running for office.
Our state attorney also needs to do a better job with this new law in place. When Michael Satz ran for reelection for the 39th time last year, he actively sought and acquired the support of leaders in the LGBT community. Unfortunately, his office’s policy on pot has never been progressive. It's been regressive.
When Washington State decriminalized pot a few years ago, King County's prosecutor, including Seattle, dismissed over 1,300 municipal prosecutions. No such thing happened here. In fact, here in Broward, a young kid with HIV who was skateboarding on Dixie Highway on Christmas Day got popped for a few joints.
In court on Monday with this young man, the State Attorney’s office not only refused to drop the charge, they asked for a fine, 25 hours of community service, and a 16-hour drug class. I mean, really? Come on, he is immediately exempt under the new law. You know who needs a class on the new law? The old state attorney.
Finally, for you to acquire cannabis as a medicine, your doctor will first have to take a statewide course, pay a thousand dollars for it, and only then can he prescribe you pot. Isn’t that stupid? Like doctors can give you chemo for cancer, morphine for pain, and insulin for diabetes, but they need to take a special class to prescribe you a joint? Please.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has said they will leave this decision up to individual doctors. They are proactive on so many issues. There is no reason why they can’t be upfront on this as well. Advocate loudly, publicly and openly for easy access to cannabis for their many HIV patients.
So, there it is. Medical marijuana is coming your way. There are administrative hurdles we must overcome in Florida, obstacles that should not be put in your way.
Your duty today is to speak out and be heard, from your doctor’s offices to city commissions. Demand reasonable access to cannabis as a medicine. The freedom you save may be your own.