Do African Americans really need more drugs in our communities? The answer alone is enough reason to vote No on Florida’s Constitutional Amendment 2 in the Nov. 4 General Election. The question, however, illustrates the serious problems with the measure that has pushed Florida to the forefront of the marijuana legalization debate.
On its surface the amendment, which “allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician,” sounds innocent enough. The idea that it truly will be highly controlled and regulated by the Department of Health is wishful thinking at best. The recent pain prescription epidemic that made Florida the unofficial pill mill capital of the country comes to mind.
Once again it’s all about the money. But Florida voters are being asked to carry a misguided sense of compassion to the polls and pass the-called medical marijuana measure with Grand Canyon-sized loopholes. The state Supreme Court’s narrow 4-3 approval of the ballot language is just a sign of the landmines. Chief Justice Ricky Polston in dissent noted that a narrow and limited marijuana program is the “precise opposite” of what the amendment would deliver. Problems he cited included broad disciplinary immunity for physicians.
Worse, the amendment is fatally flawed in that 60-percent approval by voters would enshrine de facto legalization of marijuana in the state Constitution — above legislative and court regulation.
Moreover, from the vantage point of the biggest victims of the disproportionate impact of the War on Drugs, a bit of perspective is in order. African-Americans never produced the heroin, cocaine and other ravagers of our communities. So the irony is galling.While gourmet marijuana dispensaries spring up in other communities, untold numbers of our youth crowd the nation’s jails, or are caught up in the criminal justice system on possession charges, denied the right to vote on laws that, to their detriment, enrich others. “After 40 years of impoverished black men getting prison time for selling weed,” says Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, “white men are planning to get rich doing the same things.”
Florida needs to take a deep breath and do better. The citizens who can impact this law should vote early, and vote No.