Florida mulls medical marijuana

Friday , February 28, 2014 - 12:35 PM

Christie Smythe, Christine Sexton, The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida would become the 22nd state to legalize the medical use of marijuana if voters approve a measure that the state's highest court said can be on the ballot in November.

Florida's Supreme Court said in a 4-3 opinion Monday that an initiative submitted by People United for Medical Marijuana meets requirements for inclusion on the ballot, allowing it to come before voters. The state attorney general opposed the move, saying the amendment's title and summary would mislead voters and allow "far wider" use.

Voters "will be able to cast an intelligent and informed ballot," the court said in a decision that turned aside arguments that the amendment's title and summary were confusing.

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, according to the website for marijuana-reform organization NORML. Voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures in 2012 to legalize recreational use of the drug.

The law, if approved, would allow those suffering from glaucoma, AIDS, Parkinson's diseases and other illnesses to receive marijuana if doctors determine the benefits outweigh health risks. Insurance companies would not be required to pay for the drug, and users could not operate cars or boats.

Under the law, the state health department would regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana and would issue identification cards to users and caregivers.

State officials and groups including the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce oppose the initiative and filed briefs with the court against it.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, R, said he has "a great deal of empathy for people battling difficult diseases."

"But, having seen the terrible affects of alcohol and drug abuse first-hand, I cannot endorse sending Florida down this path and I would personally vote against it," he said in a statement.

Ben Pollara, who led the campaign for medical marijuana in Florida, said in a statement that the court's ruling marks a "historic moment" for Floridians "suffering from debilitating conditions and illnesses."

This month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, announced plans to allow some patients with cancer, glaucoma and other illnesses use marijuana for medical purposes.

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