Lawmaker Stirs Medical Marijuana Pot in Florida

Democrat prescribes 'joint' resolution for state Constitution, says it will raise revenue
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 11, 2011 3:55 AM
Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, Leads Medical Marijuana Press Conference at Tallahassee Capitol

Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, leads medical marijuana press conference at Tallahassee Capitol | Photo: Lane Wright

Hoisting a political longshot, a freshman Democratic legislator wants to put medical marijuana into the state Constitution.

While a recent public opinion poll showed Floridians favoring the idea, state Rep. Jeff Clemens might not even get a hearing in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Undaunted, the Lake Worth lawmaker said Thursday that he wants Florida to join 14 other states and the District of Columbia in marketing medical marijuana.

And, ultimately, Clemens wants to go beyond mere medicinal use. He calls himself a full-on "decriminalization advocate" for pot.

Two other South Florida Democrats -- Rick Kriseman and Mark Pafford -- are listed as co-sponsors of Clemens' House Joint Resolution 1407.

Since the chances for passage of a medical marijuana law remain slim to none in the GOP-controlled Legislature, the Democratic trio is pushing a constitutional amendment, which would be voted on by the electorate at large. Constitutional amendments require a 60 percent majority for enactment.

A new poll by GOP pollster Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates suggested that a majority of Floridians at least mildly support prescription pot.

The poll asked: “If there was a constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes only when prescribed by a practicing physician and the election were held today, would you vote 'yes' to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes or 'no' to stop it?”

In response:

  • 41 percent said they would definitely vote yes;
  • 17 percent said they would probably vote yes;
  • 31 percent said they would definitely vote no.

Clemens, a Michigan native who moved to Florida in 1997 and served as mayor of Lake Worth from 2007-2009, appeared at Thursday's news conference with health-care professionals and people with debilitative illnesses who touted marijuana's medicinal benefits.

Clemens went on to suggest that prescription pot could be an economic boon to Florida.

Citing weed-related tax revenues from California and Colorado, Clemens projected that Florida could reap "anywhere from $5 million to $12 million." He indicated that the likely number could be at the high end because "we have a large senior population."

Alex Snitker, the Florida Libertarian Party's candidate for U.S. Senate last fall, called Clemens' proposal "great news."

But, he added, "It will never make the ballot, because it will get more people out for Libertarians. I would have got triple the vote [if the measure had been on the ballot]."

House Speaker Dean Cannon deferred comment about Clemens' bill and its prospects for passage. Spokeswoman Katie Betta said Cannon is in the "process of reviewing and referring numerous bills, this bill included."

Politics aside, the medical-marijuana gambit faces resistance on practical grounds.

Widely regarded as the "pill mill" capital of the country, Florida struggles to control "doctor shopping" and the misuse of prescription drugs.

"Already, the Sunshine State is finding it next to impossible to keep oxycodone out of the hands of addicts. That drug is legal only when prescribed by a doctor, and yet addicts are overdosing at rates that surpass any other state in America," a South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist noted this week.

Clemens responded that his proposed 2012 ballot measure, if passed, would not take effect until 2013, after the Legislature enacted the necessary enabling laws.

"If we're still dealing with the pill mill problem two or three years from now, then shame on us," he said.

Besides, he added, "Medicinal cannabis has never killed anyone."


Reach Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (24)

12:14PM MAY 18TH 2013
4:59PM DEC 5TH 2012
People do not overdose on marijuana, so I do not know why they are comparing OD rates of oxycodone to marijuana. I am destroying my body with anti-inflammatories and pain medication for dysmenorrhea because I do not have access to the only real and nature thing that really helps: marijuana. I am not a criminal. I am a college student with a maintained GPA of 3.667. When I have these bouts with my dysmenorrhea, I am crippled with pain. I can barely walk and I have nausea, dizzyness, and I sometimes faint/pass out from the pain. This makes it very hard to go to school and pay attention in class. When I smoke marijuana, I can go to school, I can go to work, and I can go anywhere. Please support pro-marijuana laws for medical use! I am begging you.
Shawn beatty
3:39AM NOV 18TH 2012
Pls get weed legal it help my friend that has cancer not to feel pain and have a appitite it also helps me with my head aces and other problems pls let me know where to sign the ballot and so I can pass it on and let me know how it is going if were getting close to be able to vote on it am all for legalizing pot
10:51PM NOV 7TH 2012
My brother was 65 when he was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor. He lasted 18 months. In the last six months of his life, after we had exhausted every possible "legitimate" course of action to help him with the pain from the chemo and radiation therapy, the nausea, the sleeplessness, and the mood irritability, we got some weed from a friend and encouraged him to try it. It still chokes me up to recall the first time he smiled and said "I feel better". All the above negative symptoms of his treatment were substantially alleviated - not gone, but gone enough that he was able to enjoy much more quality of life for the remainder of his time than if he had not had the marijuana. For all of you who are young (or old) and healthy and will not, therefore, vote for passage of a medical marijuana initiative, I say: Should the time come when you need it, I hope you can get it.
9:49PM NOV 1ST 2012
I would love to see Marijuana 100% legal,or atleast for Medical purposes. I smoke weed almost daily,if I don't I can't sleep,or eat,and im alot more agressive natured. Ask my wife lol,she says it makes me more open minded and easier to talk to. Furthermore most kids only smoke it because its illegal,make it legal and the "thrill of getting high" is gone. I have never once had any bad experiences smoking and do not know anyone who has. There are 0 reports of death by weed. Besides like Katt Williams said "Aspirin is perfectly legal but if you take 13 of them it will be your last headache."
Jessica Concerned Floridian
8:01PM JUL 29TH 2012
Widely regarded as the "pill mill" capital of the country, Florida struggles to control "doctor shopping" and the misuse of prescription drugs.

"Already, the Sunshine State is finding it next to impossible to keep oxycodone out of the hands of addicts. That drug is legal only when prescribed by a doctor, and yet addicts are overdosing at rates that surpass any other state in America," a South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist noted this week.

I am giving you this quote from your own article. It is so sad that our beautiful wonderful country has leaders that really believe that marijuana is like oxycodone the even sadder part is everyone that is in politics wants everyone to take it because it makes more money and kills you at the same time. When have you ever heard of anyone dieing from marijuana. The debt problem there would not be one if you legalized it. You want to pump people full of chemicals but not give the sick people that have bone cancer MS and all other manner of disease an opportunity to live. Its sad you can create horrible addicts with your chemically made medicines but the real natural from the earth medication that could help lets say the person fighting cancer or the migraine patient NO NO lets keep giving them to what I see as practically legalized cocaine. I have personally watched friends die of addiction to pain killers and all manner of other "man made pills" and it breaks my heart to see people be so ignorant to not see this is an obvious yes and needs to have rules I agree but fix the debt and help the ones that need the stuff have it! Keep stalling you will be back to this because its the only way to fix the economy....
david brower
1:40PM FEB 4TH 2012
i have MS & use a walker i would like to try medical pot i was im a wheelchair now im on a walker i have tried lots of medical ways i even workout lots 250 push ups, squats & calf raises a day plus more i still can't walk i must use walker i'm 34 i not had a date in over 10 years go ahead try to pick up a girl rolling up on a walker i need help if this will help me i all for it i will do anything to walk again please help me
8:19PM JUN 23RD 2012
David hang in the buddy. Flori DAH can't be that stupid not to get this passed asap. Need to sign the petition.
11:32PM MAR 27TH 2011
I am 57 and disabled with a fuesed nerve in my spine and buldging disk. I also have ostiopina from the lumbars to lower spine. I have been fighting between pain and getting addicted to narcotics that my doctor wants to prescribe me. Laying in my bed were I spend all my time a friend pulled out a joint one day. After taking a couple of hits to be sociable I noticed emmediately after getting up to go to the restroom that the pain was down to about a 2 or 3 which is managable. I was able to do things on my feet that I havent done in a long time, like the dishes and some household chores. The simple things most people take for granted. Its funny that a drug I use to use for recreation durring the Nam yrs. in the service I now use for pain. And its not addicting and lasts for about 3 to 4 hrs. I never voted in my life but as soon as I heard that it might be on the ballet next year I registered to vote. I will vote for the medical use and for any politician that is also for it.
Ralph W
1:53PM MAR 16TH 2011
I too support Clemens' House Joint Resolution 1407 to legalize the medical use of cannabis. Many of my fellow senior citizens as well as myself would appreciate it if the State Legislature would give us a chance to vote on this issue.
Robert Lloyd
5:38PM MAR 12TH 2011
>>...he wants Florida to join 14 other states and the District of Columbia in marketing medical marijuana.<<

I am no advocate for drug use, but the gov't has no business regulating drugs nor especially 'marketing medical marijuana.' Doesn't anyone look at the big picture and see this regulating everything mindset of the major corrupted parties is pure foolishness?

Get gov't out of our lives. I'm hoping that the mid-east revolutionary passion comes to this country too!
Jessica Concerned Floridian
8:03PM JUL 29TH 2012
8:23PM JUN 23RD 2012
Well put Robert, Way to much Gov. time to reorganize the situation.
12:25PM MAR 11TH 2011
I support HJR 1407. Finally making progress in Florida!
Comrade Terry
12:16PM MAR 11TH 2011
Gee, that would sure give tourism a boost.
8:54AM MAR 11TH 2011
"It will never make the ballot, because it will get more people out for Libertarians. I would have got triple the vote [if the measure had been on the ballot]."

I think support for this could work in a Republican's favor. It would certainly help with some of the cynicism I view many of them with. (Don't worry, I'm cynical of Democrats too.) In any case, I would hope a politician wouldn't go against supporting putting that on the ballot for fear of losing votes to another party. That would tell me they have no confidence that their decisions are the right thing to do for Floridians.

Otherwise, I'm a little confused at what the practical grounds of resistance are. I could be wrong, but it seems to me marijuana is as easy, or easier to get than prescription pills, everywhere. Probably cheaper too. So I don't see us becoming a haven for pot addicts by legalizing medical or even decriminalizing it for general use.

Last but not least, thank you Mr. Ward for giving this issue some coverage. I didn't know Rep. Clemens was championing medical marijuana until I read your blog on it. And you did a great follow up on it...
Spc. Schager, Jessie T.
7:07AM MAR 11TH 2011
I was a Specialist in the United States Army. I served in Iraq from April 2004 to 2005, while on my tour I was blown up by a roadside bomb on the 4th of November. The explosion cause me to have a minor T.B.I. (Traumatic Brain Injury), P.T.S.D. along with a bad lower back, hip and knee (from another accident in Iraq), then was diagnosed with Lymphoma Jan of 2009 from the burn pits on the air base of Balad, a.k.a Camp Anaconda. I began smoking after I was discharged from the hospital and found it made my life easier. April 27th 2011 will be two years in remission and it only continues to help me, I have less nightmares of the men we loss over there, less flashbacks during the day, calms my nerves down, and reduces my stress. I am 26 years old right now, and am retired, a 100% disabled and want to move to Florida and enjoy the rest of my life on the beaches, in the sun. The heat relieves the pain in my bones from my combat tour. I want to move to Florida this year, but with the strict laws against marijuana has me thinking twice about moving. Marijuana is really an amazing medicine, I am able to live a more normal life when I am able to smoke then when I do not. I will support this, and hope Florida will join Cali in making medical marijuana legal. Thank you for your time,
Spc. Schager, Jessie T.
Combat Veteran
O.I.F. II 2004 - 2005
charles ewing
9:45AM MAR 21ST 2011
Spc. Schager, thank you for your service to our country. My two brothers are both vets who support complete pot decriminalization. I, myself am one of those people who has been living with HIV for seven years now (I'm blessed by the universe) in spite of having had full-blown AIDS with fatal numbers. I would never do anything illegal, of course. (sly grin) But IF I used pot to help me deal with a lot of side effects and depression and appetite, I THINK it would be of great benefit. The benefits outweigh the negatives so greatly it's hard to understand why intelligent people just don't get it.
De-criminalization would also relieve a lot of fear and guilt from anyone currently using in Fla.
5:47PM MAR 11TH 2011
Hey Jessie, Thanks for all you have done for this country. Please join us in fighting to change these laws. Email me through the PUFMM site to get active in changing these laws today! The citizens need you again!
1:50PM MAR 11TH 2011
Thank you for your Service, sorry for your wounds. Your story is just one of many, unfortunately . It is a SHAME on our country that we ask our soldiers to risk their lives only to return home to be labeled Criminals for enjoying one of Natures blessings. I would love to see a movement of soldiers and veterans for Cannabis legalization, maybe you could start one Jess.
6:53AM MAR 11TH 2011
JEEBULOUS H CHRIST! Finally! Someone in Florida being progressive! I never thought I'd see the day. Me and Elia'n Gonzales are gonna go drink some Old Milwaukee and ring some bells or heaven help us, light some ILLEGAL FIREWORKS to celebrate. Meanwhile I hope "padrastro" Fidel smokes a delicious puro grande!
dave fasolo
6:44AM JUL 28TH 2011
WAKE UP FLORIDIANS!!! Lets get this on the ballot in 2012~~~ the states that are, not only has crim gone down in some cases in colorado as much as 33%..The most rediculous thing this state does is put smokers "IN JAIL"!!? thats ubsurd!!!!and because of overcrowdingb in fla system..there gonna let HARD NOSE CRIMINALS OUT? IS THIS A JOKE? ~~~~~~NO REALLY IT HAS TO BE A SADISTIC
dave fasolo
5:18AM JUL 28TH 2011
Andre~~~ Very well thought out argument!! very nice,,,,,DOUBLE STANDERDS DOUBLE DOUBLE DOUBLE
7:28PM AUG 12TH 2011
I am a Desert Storm Vet with several ailments from chronic back pain, hip pain, leg pain, sciatica,
and migraines and more. Now it's al-right for the Veteran Administration to prescribe morphine, methadone, Valium and a lot of other medicines to help me cope with the pain I have in every day life. These medicines give me medicine hang over side affects, and put me in a terrible mood for my family to deal with to boot. My quality of life is poor to say the least, and I too have tried marijuana, after seeing it on several t.v. specials and the thing is it does help me feel just a little better. it helps me cope with my chronic ailments and for some reason this is bad? Please , if we in Florida get a chance to vote on this amendment, please vote yes for compassionate medical use! Help those of us who feel like we don't have a voice be heard. It works and we should have the right to use it. Thank you, and God Bless America!!

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