By REVEREND O’NEAL DOZIER
After failing to pull the wool over the eyes of Florida voters in 2014, the proponents of Amendment 2, the so-called “medical” marijuana amendment,have brought it back.
I opposed it then and I oppose it now. I support efforts to help those suffering from real debilitating illnesses, but Amendment 2 goes far beyond that worthy cause. It is nothing more than a back door attempt to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Florida.
I am not alone. Both the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Medical Association oppose Amendment 2. As T.Willard Fair, President of the Urban League of Greater Miami and former Chairman of the Florida Board of Education, said in 2014:“I will not vote to legalize the street drug marijuana…label it medicine and make it available to anyone… for any condition…”
Fair’s statement is just as applicable today as it was then.The so-called“new”Amendment 2 is still filled with dangerous loopholes including:
- Allowing most high school seniors to legally purchase pot without their parents’ consent.
- Permitting pot candy and other THC-infused edibles that appeal to children.
- Placing no restrictions on the location and number of so-called pot shops.
- Allowing so-called caregivers to administer pot without medical training and permitting non-medically trained personnel (“budtenders”) to staff pot shops.
As if these facts were not disturbing enough, it is Amendment 2’s potential negative impact on Florida’s black and lower income communities that concerns me the most given that the Department of Health estimates the Amendment would result in nearly 2,000 pot shops in the state.
And where do you think they will be located? All we have to do is take a look at what is happening in cities in states that have legalized marijuana.
In Denver, the Denver Post reported that Denver’s zoning rules are sending marijuana businesses to low income neighborhoods. In Seattle, protesters have targeted the city’s white-owned top-selling pot store which is located in the heart of what was a predominantly black neighborhood where residents were once arrested for selling pot.
Black community leaders had better be prepared for similar efforts here in Florida. Several cities have already passed or considered ordinances banning or restricting the sale of marijuana products under current law and in anticipation of an onslaught of full potency marijuana if Amendment 2 passes.
In Palm Beach, the Planning and Zoning Commission recently passed an ordinance to ban or limit medical marijuana facilities in the city.
In Miami-Dade, the county passed an ordinance prohibiting dispensaries from opening in certain areas and Orlando has approved a moratorium on any new pot outlets in the city.
We should also be wary of Amendment 2 proponents who say Amendment 2 will help not only those with the conditions listed in the amendment, such as HIV and cancer,but also “other debilitating medical conditions…” They will not tell you that in California, a report shows that only three percent of users have “debilitating” conditions like cancer, and the average user is a 32-year old white male with a history of drug or alcohol use.
I could not discuss Amendment 2 without exploding one of the main myths its proponents make to the black community: legalization of pot will end racial disparities in pot arrest rates. Not true. According to the Center on Criminal and Juvenile Justice,black people are twice as likely to be arrested for pot in Colorado and Washington–where it’s legal.
To those who argue that Amendment 2 is a “silver bullet” that will end such disparities and be a“get out of jail free card,” they should read the Amendment’s fine print:
“Nothing in this section shall affect or repeal laws relating to non-medical use, possession, production or sale of marijuana… requires the violation of federal law or purports to give immunity under federal law.” Under federal law,marijuana is an illegal substance.
Finally,and making things even worse, it is a scientific fact that marijuana usage dumbs down our children and makes them lazy and unproductive. At a time when black high school graduation rates are below all other ethnic groups in our state, this is no time to give pot respectability to our youth by opening the“medipot” flood gates and making things even worse; so vote ‘NO’ on this dangerous amendment.
Reverend O’Neal Dozieris Senior Pastor, The Worldwide Christian Center Church, Pompano Beach.