If the amendment to allow medical professionals to prescribe marijuana to sick patients passes, it should not happen as a result of support from the black community, according to a prominent community leader.

“Anybody who cares about our community would be [against] voting for Amendment 2,” said T. Willard Fair, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami.

Fair said that the black community already suffers from the presence of illegal drugs in its midst.

“Can you imagine what would happen if it was legal,” he asked. “For us to want to vote to make it legal makes no sense whatsoever.”

Fair is referring to Amendment 2, which will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. The ballot issue refers to the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes only, however, Fair said that because of loopholes, he sees it “as nothing more than a gateway to legalizing everything else. All you got to do is look around and see what happens when it gets legalized.”

United For Care facilitated the petition-initiative that brought the constitutional amendment to the ballot with over 1.1 million signatures. The amendment is supported by a number of medical organizations, including the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association and the American Academy of HIV Medicine.

Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C. currently provide legal access and protection under state law for seriously ill patients whose doctors recommend the medical use of marijuana. According to a 2003 WebMD Medscape poll, 76 percent of physicians and 86 percent of nurses favor “marijuana for medicinal purposes.”

Fair said he fears that the legalization of medicinal marijuana will lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana, the impact of which he predicts will have a devastating impact on communities like Liberty City.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd agrees. He told the Tampa Tribune that, “This amendment, as a matter of fact, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,”

Judd is president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, which opposes the initiative.

He warned that the proposed amendment is “cleverly written” for “use and abuse,” will lead to children legally obtaining marijuana and predicted crime rates will soar.

“You will pay more taxes because it’s going to take more policing,” Judd said

Fair said the recent shooting of 15 people at a Miami nightclub is an indication of marijuana’s danger.

“The other day, a young man 17 years of age shot up a night club where there were kids in it. And when you look at his history, he also has been suspended already for smoking marijuana,” he said. Fair said that a middle school principal recently told him that he caught ten students smoking marijuana on school grounds.

The Urban League of Greater Miami held a community event to vocalize its opposition to the proposed amendment on Wednesday at the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Amendment 2 proponents say that the information being provided by opponents is misleading.

Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, said that he’s surprised that the Urban League of Greater Miami is taking a position on the amendment, since it is outside of the agency’s scope of services.

“I categorically reject [Fair’s] statement,” said Pollara, who added that the initiative is about providing treatment options to people with debilitating diseases and will not result in an increase of drugs in the black community.

Pollara said that the prohibition of marijuana has adversely impacted black communities because drug laws are “largely racist” and have resulted in the disproportionate imprisonment of young black marijuana users.

He told the Tampa Tribune that opponents “appear to be intent on confusing voters.”

“Our opponents can keep trotting out the same discredited talking points for months, but the people of Florida are smarter than that and will approve Amendment 2 this fall,” he said. “And poll after poll shows that.”

Fair asked “everyone who cares about our children” to attend the ‘Making it Legal Doesn’t Make it Right,’ event and voice their opposition to the ballot measure. “Shame on us if we don’t participate,” said Fair, who added that no one in the black community has spoken up against the amendment.

“I’ll be so happy if the black community sends a resounding no on the issue,” he said.


Michelle Hollinger can be contacted at michellehollinger303@gmail.com.