medical marijuana

The Medical Marijuana Amendment passed in Florida with 71 percent of the vote.

Florida’s Amendment 2, the so-called “Medical Marijuana Amendment,” passed overwhelmingly on Nov. 8 with 71 percent of the vote. Voters made the correct — and humanitarian — choice.

Two years ago, a similar amendment failed when only 57.6 percent of voters approved it. Because it was a constitutional amendment, a “supermajority” of voters — 60 percent — had to approve it.

Florida was not alone on Nov. 8. North Dakota and Arkansas also voted to approve medical marijuana. Now, 28 states have legalized medical cannabis.

California and Massachusetts voters approved legalizing, regulating and taxing recreational marijuana for adult use. That brings the total, nationwide, to six states where adults can use marijuana for other than medical reasons.

Safeguards will be in place

Opponents of the Florida measure need not worry that unauthorized persons will be abusing cannabis. (The state Department of Health has six months to draft the regulations to implement the new law.)

One safeguard against fraudulent acquisition and use of medical cannabis is the state-issued identification card that a patient and, when applicable, his or her caregiver will have to show to obtain the medicine.

Nor will those who receive the medicine be able to get “high” from the cannabis they receive. The varieties of cannabis, such as Charlotte’s Web, used in medical applications are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol. In recreational marijuana, that THC concentration is much, much higher.

And not just anyone can obtain a prescription for the cannabis. First, “a licensed Florida physician” must diagnose the patient as having a “debilitating” medical condition.

Who will qualify for medical marijuana?

Only those patients with a “debilitating” medical condition will qualify for medical marijuana. This includes patients who have “cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

Voters in every county approved medical marijuana

In Florida, voters in every one of the state’s 67 counties approved Amendment 2.

Liberty County, in the Florida Panhandle, had the fewest number of voters (3,206) in the election. In the county, Florida’s least populous, 2,101 voted “yes” while 1,105 voted “no.” That’s 65.5 percent vs. 34.5 percent.

Miami-Dade County, the state’s most heavily populated, had the largest voter turnout (901,907). Of those, 616,211 voted to approve; 285,696 voted against. That’s 68.3 percent vs. 31.7 percent.

Among the counties, Broward seems to have the highest percentage of “yes” votes: Of 777,630 cast, 587,638 voters approved, while 189,992 opposed the measure. That’s 75.6 percent vs. 24.4 percent.

The federal government has not been so accommodating, however. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration still considers marijuana — whether medical or recreational — a Schedule I drug and forbids its use. The USDA considers a Schedule I drug to have no medicinal value.

For more information on marijuana policies in Florida and throughout the United States, visit Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).