New polling finds public far ahead of politicians
Despite the fact that 20 states and the District of Columbia allow for the medical use of marijuana, and over a third of the county now live in jurisdictions with these compassionate laws, the Florida Legislature has refused to even discuss the matter. Meanwhile, new polling conducted by StPetePolls.org demonstrates how out of touch Florida lawmakers are with their constituents when it comes to marijuana policy. More than three thousand registered voters were contacted in early August. Of those polled, 73.5% support a “Constitutional amendment that would allow the use of marijuana for treatment of debilitating medical conditions if authorized by a doctor,” and 58.8% “think that marijuana should be taxed and regulated like alcohol and be made legal for any adult to use.” If you’re a resident of Florida, urge your lawmakers to listen to their constituents by ending the prohibition on adult marijuana use.
Legislation filed in 2013 by Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) and Rep. Katie Edwards (D-District 98) that would have exempted seriously ill Floridians from criminal penalties for using marijuana with their doctors’ recommendations was never voted on this past year. Legislation can take years to pass, so Floridians should continue to demand that their lawmakers stop treating the sick and suffering like criminals.
Courts reject suspicionless drug testing law
The 2011 law signed by Gov. Scott requiring new applicants for temporary welfare assistance funded by the TANF to undergo, and pay for out of pocket, mandatory and suspicionless drug tests continues to face many welcome challenges and bad press. The ACLU sued to enjoin implementation of the law, and it was temporarily suspended in October of 2011. A federal court of appeals upheld the decision. The state has appealed that decision, and a hearing is expected in the coming months. In the meantime, early reports indicate that the law, when it was in effect, ended up costing the state more money than it saved, which is ironic considering cost savings was an argument used to justify the need for the law.
The only other state that has passed a mandatory and suspicionless drug testing program for public assistance is Michigan. A federal appeals court struck down Michigan’s law in 2002 for being a constitutional violation of an individual’s right to privacy and their Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless searches. Fortunately, this precedent supports the ACLU’s claim that Florida’s new law will not pass constitutional muster. Unfortunately, it requires a legal challenge that will take time and money.
Court established defense
Despite the fact that a medical necessity defense has been established by Florida case law, patients remain at risk of being arrested and jailed because legislators have yet to enact a medical marijuana law. To review a 1991 case that outlines Florida's medical necessity defense, click here.
Harsh penalties put everyone at risk
Although Florida courts, public opinion, and 20 other states (and D.C.) reflect a trend that recognizes the legitimate use of medical marijuana, Florida patients remain exposed to the state's harsh possession laws. Every single medical marijuana patient in Florida continues to live in fear because Florida's penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana are among the nation's toughest. Sadly, the damages caused by these draconian criminal laws are disproportionately placed on Florida’s African-American population. According to a study by the ACLU, African-Americans in Florida are over four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as their white neighbors.
Please email your legislators and ask them to introduce legislation to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. You can read more about Florida's draconian marijuana laws and their impacts here.
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