This year, one of the most controversial and hotly contested races in Florida doesn’t involve politicians. It’s about people and whether they have the right to use marijuana to treat their serious health conditions. This is a hot topic that has dominated the headlines for months, and as with any heated debate misinformation is everywhere.
During this election season, millions of dollars have been spent spreading information for and against medical marijuana and some of it just isn’t true. In order to make the best decision come election day, let’s explore some of the myths out there, and find out how medical marijuana initiative Amendment 2 will really affect our communities.
United for Care, led by Morgan & Morgan founder John Morgan, is the driving force behind the pro-medical marijuana movement. The issue is very close to John’s heart, and he has poured his own money into another campaign this year after a very narrow defeat in 2014.
His brother Tim was paralyzed as a young man, and medical marijuana is the most effective treatment for his chronic pain. In order to grant Tim and other Floridians with debilitating medical conditions an improved quality of life, John is fighting hard for their access to legal medical marijuana.
In light of this, let’s take a look at some of the misinformation out there.
Will it Increase Crime?
While it would be a stretch to suggest that legal medical marijuana is solely responsible for a reduction in crime, research has demonstrated a relationship between the two, according to Journalist's Resource, a project of the Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center and the Carnegie-Knight Initiative.
One study cited by Harvard linked medical marijuana to a 4 percent to 12 percent reduction in property crimes such as theft and burglaries. The same study conceded that crime has fallen across the country in recent years, but also noted that in states that legalized medical marijuana it fell roughly five percent more.
Similarly, the notion that medical marijuana treatment centers will become magnets for crime was also found to be untrue. In fact, the centers may actually diminish crime in their vicinity because of their security, cameras, and lights, research shows.
Will it Increase Impaired Driving?
The study mentioned above also found a decrease in impaired driving, which contradicts one myth going around. Those researchers were able to chart the number of DUIs and DWIs in states with medical marijuana laws, and found that they fell when medical marijuana was legalized.
This was also found to be true for traffic fatalities. Another one of the studies cited by Harvard found that alcohol and marijuana are substitutes, and when marijuana is more readily available people use alcohol less. The first year after medical marijuana goes into effect, traffic fatalities decrease between 8 percent and 11 percent, according to the study.
Will it Bring Kid-Friendly Pot to Florida?
Amendment 2 permits the production and sale of medical marijuana in edible form, and as the industry has become more sophisticated of-late, edibles have become more potent and delicious. Those opposed to medical marijuana in Florida are saying these yummy-looking products will appeal to children, which could lead to a trip to the ER and even a short hospitalization if a child ingests one.
While there have been instances of this in states with legal medical marijuana, it was not clear in all cases if the edible came from a medical marijuana treatment center or from another source, such as a home-made variety, according to Politifact.
United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara compared medical marijuana to any other medication in an interview with Politifact. He said that it is the responsibility of parents to keep their medicine out of the reach of their children.
Alternatively, a rule could be developed as in other states that require childproof packaging, like what is already required with medicines that get picked up at the pharmacy. Other states with medical marijuana have implemented different tactics to prevent children from getting into edibles, suggesting there are ways to prevent children from ingesting them.
All this information seems to indicate that while edibles come in the form of delicious cakes and candy that can appeal to children, proper storage by parents and laws governing the packaging can deal with this issue.
While some people want us to think that medical marijuana is scary and that it will turn our state into a drug-infested cesspool, the facts seem to suggest otherwise. In fact, it seems that medical marijuana might not only provide relief to very sick people, it could also help our veterans, and provide a boost to our economy.
Nov. 9 Update: Amendment 2 passed, earning 71 percent of the vote. Read more about this historic movement.