The Florida Penal Code outlines a number of substances that are illegal, from cocaine and crystal meth, to ecstasy and oxycontin.

This may come as a surprise to many of you, but there is no exception to these rules for gays and lesbians.

Years ago, Florida ran an ad campaign saying ‘the rules are different here.’ Too many gay men took that slogan to heart. The rules are not different for us.

Gay men use too many drugs. We drink too much, smoke too much, and abuse our body too often. Coming out of the closet may have been tough, but it does not grant you a non-stop, self-indulgent right to get stoned, be stoned, and stay stoned.

Unfortunately, the drugs work. You get high and you want to get higher, again and again. So you go back to the bottle or the pill to score the buzz one more time, to find a freedom, and you become a slave to them.

It’s ironic in a way. You get high to escape, but you are really building your own prison. You get busted, and you pay more than a lawyer. You give up your freedom, and surrender individual autonomy to probationary supervision. You started off doing a line, and instead wind up waiting on a line to go to some office to take a drug test.

A new job opens up but you are going to a court ordered drug class instead. You are getting counseled by an ex addict who is telling you how drugs ruined his life, and advising you how to get clean. And you say to yourself, ‘how is this happening to me?’ The mirror, check out a mirror. To live for something is to die for the lack of it. To become dependent on anything, you lose your independence for everything else.

South Florida is not a good place to become dependent on drugs. We do not have enough treatment programs and we put too many people in jail. Drug abuse should be a public health issue. We should check the abuse, not jail the abuser. But we don’t. We have weak-willed judges and lousy legislators who like to think they are being tough on crime. They are just being stupid, and we elect them again and again.

We put more people in jail in South Florida for drug law violations than most of the state. We are not alone. Last year, America arrested over three quarters of a million citizens for marijuana possession. It’s unreal. Yes, 20 states have decriminalized. 30 have not. Florida is one of the ‘nots.’ You still go to jail for pot. You still get placed on probation. You still pay fines. You still place yourself under judicial restrictions. Bad laws create unjust sanctions.

It may be stupid, but it’s real. I know that 80 percent of all gays and lesbians use cannabis, but that does not make it legal. That will be up to you, by voting yes on Amendment 2 on November 4. Support the medical marijuana amendment, and maybe you won’t have to pay lawyers any more when you are caught with a joint.

The truth is no one gets addicted to cannabis. You may consume it irrationally, use it incessantly, but you don’t get to blame pot for your problems. Pot is an answer to your problems.

Day after day, and year after year, I go to court explaining away irrational acts by decent people. As a criminal defense attorney, my duty is to find a reason for the jury to acquit you or court to dismiss you.

Drugs are the scapegoat. “Oh, your honor, if he had only not been high on oxycodone, he would not have run over that dog.”

But let’s be real. You made the choice to consume the oxy, knowing that the little amber bottle has a cautionary instruction that you should not drive or use heavy machinery. So don’t blame the drug. That same oxycodone can be used for chemo. It’s not the drug’s fault you became reckless. It’s yours.

Being gay is no excuse for self-inflicted abuse, either. Sorry, but I have heard that line too often. Yes I know it is tough being a gay person in a straight world. Get over it. We all have issues. To survive, you overcome adversity and rise to challenges. No, it is not always easy, and life is not always fair.

We all make choices in life, and they take us to where we are now. Gay men like to party, hedonistically in nightclubs and romantically in bedrooms. Caution and control get lost in the wind. Oh, straight men do too. We don’t have an exclusive on self-indulgence, but we have raised it from an excuse to an art form.

One of the things we learn in life, gay or straight, is that while our time is limited, we can stretch boundaries and reach mountaintops if we only use, not abuse, our resources. Cherish and nurture the ones you have.