Thursday, September 1, 2016

Understanding Medical Marijuana and Amendment 2 in Florida

Cannabis has long been a hot topic in American politics. Here in Florida, medical marijuana is increasingly the subject of legislation and awareness campaigns on both sides of the issue. Marijuana, hashish, and hash oil are all derivatives of the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa). This article attempts to SUMMARILY shed some light on upcoming Florida medical marijuana legislation. Let’s start at the beginning.

Brief History of Cannabis. At the founding of the United States of America, cannabis was viewed as an important medicine. Widespread use of Cannabis began in China around 2727 B.C. where it was used as a medicine for gout, malaria, and rheumatism. Over centuries, its cultivation spread to India, Africa, and Europe for medicine, recreational use, and to produce paper and cloth. Europeans brought cannabis to the US during colonization and it was a medicine for many ailments including cholera, typhus, alcoholism, rabies, leprosy, and insanity. At the time, it was referred to as cannabis or Hemp. The declaration of independence was written on hemp paper, and the first American flag was woven with hemp fibers.

Criminalization of Marijuana.There are several social and economic-based explanations for how Cannabis eventually becoming demonized. It is believed that investors in timber and synthetic and cotton fabric industries sought to squeeze out hemp as a competitor and teamed up for smear campaigns against cannabis to the general public. Also, during the Mexican revolution in 1910, recreational use of cannabis became more popular. Some say, the anti-marijuana camp capitalized on growing anti-Mexican sentiment during the great depression and relabeled cannabis as “marijuana,”  the Mexican name for the plant. 

Propaganda campaigns claimed marijuana makes white women want to have sex with blacks and Mexicans, and makes people kill, rape, go insane, and commit suicide.[1] Cannabis was re-branded from medicine to dangerous drug in the eyes of the public. By 1937 it became an illegal drug under Federal Law.
Medical Marijuana in Florida
Today, scientific studies have proven cannabis to be an effective treatment for many health problems including pain, PTSD, asthma, and glaucoma. Laboratory testing has revealed no serious adverse side effects. It is currently used to treat cancer and terminal illnesses across the globe. On June 16, 2014, Florida passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 (Chapter 381.986, Florida Statutes). Under the Act, physicians licensed under Chapter 458 and 459 of the Florida Statutes are authorized to prescribe cannabis low in THC content, or low-THC cannabis, to qualified patients. The patient must suffer from cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms, and there are several criteria the physician must first meet.

Amendment 2. This year, Florida residents will consider the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, which would legalize the use of medical marijuana for treating specific debilitating diseases that can include symptoms other than seizures or spasms. The conditions will include:
  • cancer
  • epilepsy
  • glaucoma
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Crohn's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • multiple sclerosis
Note that the legislation does not allow general medical (or recreational) use. Qualified caregivers and patients would receive identification cards and be registered with the Department of Health, as would marijuana dispensaries. The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative is on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment. Arguments for an against this legislation can be found, well... everywhere. is a good place to start.

[1] Today, many will distinguish hemp from marijuana, specifying that hemp is lower in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in cannabis that causes the “high” feeling. However, during this time in history, the terms were being used interchangeably. There are 100s of chemicals in cannabis, only one of which is THC. There are also hundreds of strains of cannabis.

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