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Updated: 07/23/2014 08:00:02AM

Facts, not fear, should decide marijuana vote

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The Florida Sheriff’s Association’s aggressive campaign to defeat a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for medical purposes is a mixture of common-sense advice and old-fashioned scare-mongering. We got a dose of both when Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd met with editors from our newspaper group recently. His main message was that the referendum language is so poorly written that it would create loopholes “big enough to sail a battleship through.” He said polling showing broad support for medical marijuana is flawed and that people he speaks to change their minds when he explains that the amendment would essentially “legalize marijuana,” not just make it legal for medical purposes.

He said the writers of the amendment were exploiting voters’ compassion for people suffering from illnesses or conditions such as cancer, seizures, multiple sclerosis and paralysis, without revealing that marijuana could be recommended for more minor conditions such as anxiety and insomnia.

The importance for voters is to read not only the ballot language, but the full text of the amendment in order to get a clear picture of what the amendment means. He touted the growing availability of drugs containing medically beneficial compounds contained in marijuana (without the euphoric effect of THC) as a reason to not legalize pot. He cited the Florida Legislature’s approval this year of a low-THC marijuana called Charlotte’s Web as an example.

We agree with Judd and other sheriffs that voters should read both the abbreviated ballot language and the full text of the amendment. Voters can go to the state Division of Elections website at and click on Constitutional Amendments. Amendment 2 is titled “Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions.”

What we regret is the FSA and individual sheriffs engaging in overt scare tactics to convince voters medical marijuana will unleash a host of anti-social ills, including spiraling recreational use and abuse (especially by minors), crime and the involvement of criminals in the distribution chain. As we have noted before studies of states where medical marijuana is legal have shown the opposite to be true. There is no evidence medical marijuana produces a generation of young potheads and a University of Texas study concluded “medical marijuana laws were not found to have a crime exacerbating effect on any of the seven crime types. On the contrary, our findings indicated that MML precedes a reduction in homicide and assault.”

We respect the position taken by Florida sheriffs on this important public policy issue. They and their officers are on the front lines of coping with drug-related crime. We think they earnestly believe medical marijuana would make their jobs’ harder. That said, we disapprove of the fear-mongering tactics employed by Judd and others that smack of 1930s-era films such as “Reefer Madness” that distort the issues even as they implore voters to look at the facts.

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