Yesterday, August 31, 2015, United for Care, the organization working to legalize medical marijuana (cannabis) for a larger number of Floridians, has obtained enough petitions for their initiative to go before the Florida Supreme court for review. United for Care announced yesterday that it had reached 73,713 valid petitions, enough overall and in the required districts to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review of their petition.
Florida currently has a highly restrictive medical marijuana law in place; however, no patients have been able to legally obtain the medicine because of a bureaucratic system that has yet to enact the law. This has been mainly due to the highly restrictive nature of the law and the slow pace Florida’s Department of Health has taken to structure the rules and approvals for cultivation for the cannabis. The federal government has held a patent for the medical benefits of cannabis for over 11 years and currently supplies patients with medical cannabis. This despite rhetoric to the contrary from various federal government officials stating it does not have medical benefits.
The laws and regulations of cannabis also must be addressed on the federal level. Even though several states have now legalized the plant in various forms, the federal government continues to harass and arrest law-abiding Americans. Even though the government has acknowledged the medical benefits of cannabis and President Obama has said things to the contrary, the federal government continues to use its various agencies to arrest or try to put out of business, various people using or conducting commerce in the industry. From the IRS refusing normal business deductions for cannabis-related business to not allowing them to use the federal banking system, the federal government is using backdoor methods to shut down the industry. Even though the Department of Justice and President Obama has said raids on state-legal marijuana businesses will stop, they haven’t. The federal government has one agency pitting against another agency, and Obama has failed the American people in their desire to have the plant re-legalized. Perhaps it will take the election of a Libertarian president rather than a Democrat or Republican in order for true change to return America to its foundation of freedom.
One of the more popular examples of this federal abuse and betrayal is the Kettle Falls Five. They are a family from the State of Washington who, more than six months after the Obama administration promised to stop raiding state-legal cannabis operations, were being prosecuted by the Department of Justice for drug dealing, money laundering and federal gun charges. They were recently acquitted of four out of the five charges and will be sentenced in October 2015 to what is likely to be five years in prison.
United for Care still will need to gather another 609,436 valid petitions for their initiative to show up on the November 2016 ballot for Floridians to vote for or against it. United for Care’s initiative is one of three circulating the state to re-legalize cannabis in some form in Florida. One other initiative looks to regulate marijuana similar to how Florida regulates alcohol and another organization looks to legalize the plant with little regulation for adults over 21 years of age.
United for Care’s initiative is very similar to the initiative it successfully got onto the 2014 ballot which was ultimately defeated because 58 percent of Floridians voted for it and it need just over 60 percent for the measure to pass. These initiatives underway are constitutional amendments to the Florida Constitution because the Florida legislature has failed to act in accordance with their wishes.
The next step for United for Care’s initiative is that the Secretary of State will send the initiative to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for review and then is expected to send it to the Florida Supreme Court for final review. During this time, volunteers and paid petitioners will continue to get petitions signed as the organization only has until February 1, 2016 to submit 683,149 valid petitions for the measure to be on the November 2016 ballot.
There are currently two bills that have been introduced in the Florida House regarding some form of expanding Florida’s highly restrictive marijuana laws – no bills have been introduced in the Florida Senate as of this morning. HB 63 and HB 65 work hand-in-hand to slightly expand the number of Florida patients who would qualify to be prescribed medical cannabis by their doctor. Another bill in the Florida House, HB 73 looks to ban the natural herb kratom, even though it has been used in teas and other forms to help with pain and cramping during PMS. No one in America has directly died from using kratom; yet, one new Florida legislator is on the misguided mission to ban the herb from Florida.
Meanwhile, the rest of the country is legalizing cannabis in some form, which is helping state budgets – both on increasing state revenues while decreasing government spending. If Florida adopted any of the three constitutional measures, Florida law enforcement could focus more of their time on crimes with actual victims, rather than arresting and jailing those using cannabis in a peaceful, voluntary manner. The buying and selling of cannabis is simple commerce based on the law of supply and demand. If allowed to come out from the shadows, the state could benefit like Colorado and Washington have benefited. Many cities and counties in Florida are looking into decriminalizing possession of small amounts of cannabis, for which violators would be given a $100 fine instead of going to jail.