Legalizing Marijuana: The Conversation in Florida Has Begun

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: November 26, 2012 3:55 AM
Jodi James

Executive Director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network Jodi James

Encouraged by anti-prohibition ballot victories in three states Nov. 6, marijuana legalization advocates in the Sunshine State are bringing the fight for greater personal liberty and medical freedom straight to the Florida Capitol.

And they’re confident that reform is just what the doctor ordered.

“I truly believe this is the year we're going to see some leadership on this issue,” Jodi James, executive director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network (FLCAN), tells Sunshine State News. FLCAN calls itself the state’s leading cannabis (i.e., marijuana) reform group.

“In Washington and Colorado, the people and their government have discovered that the sky didn’t fall in after Nov. 6, and they were able to expand their regulation and control,” she says. “What we have right now in Florida is putting cannabis into the hands of black markets, criminals, terrorists, and people who would damage our society from the inside-out. That’s not control, but that’s what you get with prohibition.”

Three weeks ago, Colorado and Washington became the first two states in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use, while Massachusetts became the 18th state to legalize it for medicinal purposes.

Marijuana is currently designated an illegal “Schedule 1 drug” by the federal government. Under both state and federal law, a substance is relegated to this category when the government determines:

• The drug has no accepted medical value;

• the drug has a high potential for abuse; and

• the drug cannot safely be used under the care of a physician.

Although the federal government insists that the 18 state laws which have legalized marijuana (whether for recreational or medicinal purposes) run afoul of United States law and are invalid, as a matter of pragmatic fact the last two presidential administrations have made it their policy not to enforce the federal prohibitions in these states, though they have reserved the right to do so.

In Florida, where marijuana is still a Schedule 1 substance, possession of more than 20 grams is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. State courts do recognize a “medical necessity” defense for possession, but it cannot be invoked until after someone has been arrested and charged.

FLCAN advocates for the full legalization of marijuana usage on the part of consenting adults, and toward that end hopes to convince Tallahassee to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes. Marijuana is prescribed by doctors in several states to treat a variety of conditions, from glaucoma to terminal cancer.

Having failed to make any headway in the Florida Legislature over the last several years, James and other FLCAN officers met Nov. 13 with representatives from Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office. Under state law, the attorney general is authorized to remove drugs from Schedule 1 after finding that “additional testings, approvals, or scientific evidence ... indicate that controlled substances ... have a greater potential for beneficial medical use in treatment in the United States than was evident” when they were originally classified.

“We feel there is no drug that more clearly falls into the necessity for this emergency action [by the attorney general] than cannabis,” James tells Sunshine State News. “The fact that 18 states now allow doctors to prescribe [marijuana] is proof it obviously has medical value. With a stroke of a pen, the attorney general could remove [marijuana] from Schedule 1, and that would allow the Legislature and the public to have a conversation about how they want to control and regulate it.”

Anti-prohibition advocates have had a hard time convincing state legislators to embrace their cause. In the 2012 session, five Democratic legislators sponsored a bill that would have placed medicinal marijuana legalization on the November ballot, but it was killed in the committee process.

That bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, has since been elected to the Florida Senate. James tells the News that Clemens plans to introduce legislation in favor of medicinal legalization, though the senator’s office did not return requests for comment before this article went to press.

FLCAN’s communications director, David B. Jones, shared with Sunshine State News the answers Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, gave to a questionnaire administered over the phone before the Nov. 6 election. Raschein purportedly told FLCAN she supports the removal of criminal penalties for possession of cannabis for nonmedical use, and supports some legalization of hemp, an industrial cousin of marijuana that can be used for textiles, some food products, and in the production of ethanol.

Raschein told Sunshine State News she had no intention of sponsoring any legislation in the direction of legalization, and would need more information before she committed to supporting medicinal cannabis.

“I have had a number of legislators say to me, ‘Jodi, I am not opposed to this if [House or Senate] leadership says that we are going to move on this; I’m happy to support your issue if it comes up,’” James tells the News. “I think it’s really up to the citizens of Florida at this point to decide whether or not this is a priority for their legislators.”

James predicts that the medical needs of Florida’s veterans and seniors might soon force lawmakers to act on this issue. In Florida, veterans can be denied medical benefits for testing positive for marijuana. James says that’s not good for the state’s economy.

“Do we want our snowbirds going to New Mexico and Arizona because of these restrictions?” she asks.

The American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, and American Nursing Association all support the legalization of medical marijuana, and James insists the matter should be one of bipartisan concern.

“This is truly a conservative issue,” she explains. “It’s about smaller government, the right to privacy, the doctor-patient relationship. Fiscally conservative people don’t want to pay to jail nonviolent drug users if there’s something else that we can do.”

Even if her group cannot achieve outright medical legalization this legislative session, James hopes they can at least pull off some more modest victories.

“In Florida, if we cannot remove the criminal penalties for cannabis, we could at least push the criminal threshold for possession to 2 ounces, instead of the current 20 grams,” she proposes. “We could make 2 ounces a felony, make the rest a fine, and be no more liberal than Texas. When you talk about a hotbed of conservatism or liberalism, we know where Texas falls.

“I don’t want to be any more liberal than Texas ... this year.”

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116.

Comments (85)

Susan Brady
7:05PM NOV 5TH 2014
Why are the AMA. Physicians and Nurses not speaking up in this debate? On the anti-marijuana front there are many professional people speaking up. (i.e. sheriffs, state attorneys, etc.) What we need is more support from professional organizations in addition to the people's voice. It's sad because I believe people that support this cause are afraid to speak up in support of legalization because of fear of being publicly chastised. Think about it. When all the election signs were out there were NO "vote yes on Amendment 2". The only ones out were vote no. We've got to get more leaders like John Morgan on the ticket and rally the troops!
3:19AM JAN 3RD 2014
Everyone in the comments seems perceivable, so why Marijuana banned? like why did the Citizens let it happen? I don't understand since i was born in 1995. and also why did they fall for the deceptive movies like "Reefer Madness"?
3:19AM JAN 3RD 2014
Everyone in the comments seems perceivable, so why Marijuana banned? like why did the Citizens let it happen? I don't understand since i was born in 1995. and also why did they fall for the deceptive movies like "Reefer Madness"?
3:08AM JAN 3RD 2014
Does anyone here know that we the people are the government? I mean like literally you can decide what is wrong and what is right. If you want marijuana legal than that means YOU have to speak out. Lead by example. people who are ignorant towards the legalization of marijuana just are not fully aware about the facts and unfortunately their lives are more important than yours because they don't like weed but hey if you do not like weed then you can easily stay away!
Steve Buchholz
12:02PM OCT 10TH 2013
It is ludicrous to allow the adult citizens of 2 entire states to smoke pot legally and yet deny adults from the other 48 states the same inalienable rights to the pursuit of freedom and happiness, not to mention relief from many debilitating medical problems. Justice is NOT being served to the other residents of the 48 states that are still in the stone ages (pun intended). I have been smoking cannibis for 40 years and I have never once went home and beat my wife and/or kids or ever been in a traffic accident. I have never stolen or robbed anyone to support my weed habit. But yet alcohol and prescription drugs are legal and responsible for so much harm to the public. Why can't they (the state legislatures) see this as plain as day. If you regulated the sale and taxed it you could fund schools entirely and provide medical support for the abusers of the actual harmful drugs in our society. Weed is here to stay and they'd better come to grips with that fact and turn it into a positive rather than put people in jail (at taxpayer expense) just because they choose to smoke something that has been growing wild in the world for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. WAKE UP AMERICA!! (Florida)
joe parrino
11:44AM SEP 19TH 2013
i,ve been smoking it forover 50 years,i,m still here,and i do not ,or should i say,try any other drugs ,like they say you,ll do if you smoke marijuuana,its about time that they need to legelize it.thanks,joep.
Eric Ferguson
11:39PM JUL 24TH 2013
I believe to make pot plants legal in Florida at the beginning of 2014 would create jobs in the state. Construction, indoor , outdoor farming, shipping, package and ordering in different countries if not in the United States of America. The plant life by medical research has a growth or bud life time of six to nine weeks. To allow more legal green plant life on earth has never been a bad idea. To be able to use green plant life on earnings to personal or medical would be a great step forward in American history.
8:38PM JUN 26TH 2013
Imagine the housing boom there would be if marijuana were legal and the baby boomers retiring. The tourism would skyrocket Click on any website and see who is making the money it's the criminal lawyers
6:57PM MAY 12TH 2013
All those Tabacoo and all don want them to stop it because all the special entrance
6:50PM MAY 12TH 2013
It's true those guys are corporate thugs!
6:48PM MAY 12TH 2013
Legalize pot the government makes so much money fightin it that if they legalized it that they would make a lot less money and Tabacoo is legal because they bribe the government lets just end the war and legalize it all the Tabacoo alchohol and all those other groups are just bribing the government and are just there for the money.
Annonomus is chase
6:50PM MAY 12TH 2013
I'm the one saying all I this stuff as annonomus
Dawn Miller
4:43PM MAY 4TH 2013
it would reduce crime ..reduce turf wars put a lot of drug dealers out of business and a lot of revenue in places that is poorly needed. Turn the focus on the true criminals ...
Dawn Miller
4:37PM MAY 4TH 2013
what gets me is people that do need it ...sure have a lot of negative things to say ...walk a mile in someone's shoes .....
Dawn Miller
4:32PM MAY 4TH 2013
I pray that Florida looks closely at how it can help everyone ...due to medical need I am on medication . I went to a ss doctor he said with my problems that I fight everyday he said I would do well on Medical Marijuana.. and this is a state doctor. I didn't think much of it at the time and thought I would give it a try ..It worked PAIN FREE ..and reduced my medical symptoms.
2:54PM APR 20TH 2013
I feel that I'm only one of Thousands of people if Florida that need Medical Marijuana due to our disablites. Please help have a better life so we may live longer.
Michael K Spurlin
1:07PM APR 6TH 2013
Testing and proof of it's medical nature is certainly in need . Medical properties of cannabis are a fact and need to be shared and documented to the public and officials of this state and all states.!!
Daniel Lindsay
12:52PM APR 5TH 2013
I don't care if my past possession charges are dropped or not. We can save so much and make so much money by legalization of marijuana, not to mention freeing police time and money to fight the drug war on pills and coke.
12:13AM MAR 13TH 2013
as a retired police officer I hope that legisla will legalize marijuana do you know how much that we can cut out prescribing oxycodone?
4:38AM MAR 12TH 2013
Canibis should be legalized for everyone over 21,limit to 2 plants a house hold, you cant sell with out a permit and you wanna smoke with a friend you go to there house...like alaska! LEGALIZE FLORIDA!!!
cedric butler
7:37PM MAR 9TH 2013
I think that it should be taken off the criminal charges
john coe
1:17PM MAR 8TH 2013
OK so it should be legalized because a 90 % of Florida smokes cannabis and the fact that it helps medicaly
9:14AM MAR 7TH 2013
It is hard to express so much nevative feeling about prohibition of this matter, how they, ruller, dare, the best way to say by expression of Ayn Rand, she said: We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the goverment is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizen may act only by permission" What the shame for this contry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
June Godwin
7:43PM MAR 6TH 2013
I dont think there should be a restriction at all and there should be no price, It should be treated like the Herb it is. GOD put it here for us, Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the GREEN HERB have I given you all things. GOD put everything here for us and when he created everything he said it was good, who is the Government to make money off what GOD put here for us to use freely. As we find out in other herbs there is good things in them as well, what is the harm of everyone being high. This would be a less stressful word and it would be easier for people to get off of other MAN MADE drugs that they like pushing on people instead of something natural.
4:54PM MAR 6TH 2013
So sad about this contry, Ayn Rand said " We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the goverment is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizen may act only by permission"
alex phillips
12:12PM MAR 4TH 2013
i think that marijuana should be legalized if we legalize it and the president can open stores that sell it and take the money from the stores they open and we will be able to pay off our debt and citizens we will all b happy i mean we gonna smoke it anyway so wats the point might as well get sumtin out of the deal rite
Walter Adams
9:29AM MAR 1ST 2013
If we started smoking rosés, would they make that illegal too.
11:39PM FEB 27TH 2013
It does not make any sense at all for them not to legalize for recreational use. It would make the drug lords and criminals powerless in Florida. For now, they can grow and sell in secrecy. But if its legalized for recreational use, buyers can grow in their own back yard. Less crimes on the street. Legalize it completely and make the consequences for any other drug five times as bad. People smoke because the government tells them not to. Its as if you are a kid and your parent tells you cannot do something. Your curiousity gets the best of you and you do it anyway. If you like it, you keep doing it. If you don't, you do not do it. Simple as that.
3:35PM FEB 27TH 2013
I was driving around today and looked at the gas prices...
$4.01 for regular and its only going up! Do you think we would be in this position if we used what our forefathers used to make America? do you think we would be worried about fuel for vehicles if we used our cars the way Henry Ford intended them to be? Its time to realize we are to use EVERYTHING that comes from the earth for us and our lives and when you take two things out of the circle and make them illegal it destroys everything, 16 trillion plus dollar debt? having to cut down trees that we need to breath?? people arrested and treated like killers over a plant that has never killed in the history of the world, but has only healed and saved??? stop looking away and saying you just want to get high and look at what having cannabis and hemp illegal has brought America. we need it LEGAL and we need it NOW
5:13PM FEB 22ND 2013
People suffering from chronic pain have a completely different requirement when it comes to pain relief, sleeping aids and problems with eating. Consider the time immediately after breaking a bone, like an ankle or a wrist, and think of how sleeping or eating a meal would not be on the list of things that are likely to happen. Chronic pain can be characterized as a debilitating pain that disallows the sufferer to work, walk more than a hundred yards or so without assistance, and to sleep or eat properly.Amazingly, smoking or ingesting marijuana eases all or most of the symptoms associated with chronic pain, neurological and neuromuscular pain.

But just as there are hundreds of strains of marijuana, all of which qualifying as medical marijuana, people have differing benefits from each strain. Although there are many indica strains that are quite effective in battling the effects of chronic pain on the sufferer’s body, there are many more sativa strains that are a lot more effective due to being extremely more potent.Please note that none of the strains of medicinal marijuana should be smoked or ingested if driving a motor vehicle within four to five hours of use. Marijuana should not be used when at the place of employment or where smoking cigarettes is not allowed, or when pregnant. Although people with medicinal marijuana licenses are allowed to smoke wherever smoking is permitted, common sense should be used. As well, licenses can be revoked and criminal charges lain if license holders are caught sharing or selling any of their allotment.Five of the better strains of medicinal marijuana for chronic pain sufferers:Island Sweet Skunk. This sativa strain of medicinal marijuana is very potent but the effects are not very long lasting for long-time smokers.REF & more info at..newsonhealthcare.com/235/
Sylvia Torres
12:26AM FEB 19TH 2013
Due to a botched surgery by Dr Jose Berrios in Tarpon Springs I live with severe pain. He caused nerve damage and I have trigeminal neuralgia, confirmed by 6 doctors including the Mayo clinic. Unable to file a malpractice per Morgan and Morgan law firm it was not catastrophic enough, I needed a whole in my face per the paralegal. I have been provided several different pain medications but they cause liver damage, I have tried marijuana and so far it is the only thing that controls the pain. I would rather use marijuana then pills for my sinus pain and my back pains. Yes I also used it when I was younger for cramps. It should be legal and controlled
arthur j soucie
4:16PM FEB 18TH 2013
a balanced budget from the taxes need i say anything more it is far overdue here in florida all i hear is no money for the teachers or fireman or cops tell me what is worse oxycodone or med weed i am retired i wont take opiats for my cronic pain
7:08PM FEB 16TH 2013
You say marijuana is dangerous. How can you can sell alcohol, cigarettes, and many other substances that kill you? Thatz wrong. You ain't never hear marijuana kill anyone. The only reason people are acting violent towards each is because you took away something they enjoy. If it is gonna be illegal, then it should've been illegal back then when it woodstock was around. Back then marijuana brought peace to people. This is the future, i think it will bring peace again. Think about it how many kills are has there been this year and the years before that. Don't you think it will bring peace to the world. And it will also bring help to the the taxation in the world as well. I think we should think about it and make it legal.
2:08AM FEB 15TH 2013
I believe it should be flat out legal if you can smoke cigarettes that can kill u why cant u smoke herb to kill a headache or something worse pills are alot worse and doctors give them out like candy um no thanks on the pharnasuticals I'd rather smoke the plant
6:24PM FEB 9TH 2013
I just think its outrageous. You got drugs like oxycotin and hydrocodone that doctors can perscribe for pain which I refuse to take. For the simple fact that so many people get hooked on perscription drugs. Those are what I considerthose to be real drugs. You mix chemical and formulas together to create it. And its o.k. to give me something that has highly addictive characteristics. But MARIJUANA, alot more less mild as far as being addictive less than tobacco and both acohol and all their drugs. Is against the law. I refuse to take any of those harsher drugs for fear of becoming a addict. I never heard of anyone over dosing on Marijuana. Doing outrageous things to obtain it like stealing or commiting crimes. Truth is theirs probably more crimes commited to either obtain their products or a result of abusing their products. I think marijuana should at the least be used for medical purposes. Hopefully in all 50 states regulates like tobacco and acohol. To call anyone a criminal for the usage. What is wrong with our goverment! We spend millions trying to stop drug wars. Which also is a big failure and waste of my tax dollars. Thousands of people die senselessly! Why not just legalize it. Why don't they allow the people to speak on it. What does the majority want. After all the goverment is supposed to be a spokesman for the people. ASK US WHAT WE WANT!
Eliz Brown
1:16AM JAN 31ST 2013
AllTogetherLiteUp4/20/13@4:20...they cant arrest all of us out here if we all lite up at once. The truth is even the cops are tired of enforcing a dumb useless law. The truth is its time to put the mexicans out of business. The truth is that the original reason for this scedule 1 designation was due to the greed and political power of one William Randolph Hearst. The truth islives have been destroyed not because of the use of cannabis but because it is illegal to use. Basil will cause one to giggle. Lemon balm is a sophoric. Jimson weed can cause euphoria when used. The willow tree is an analgisic. Foxglove contains digitalis. The public isnt 'protected by these plants....why not legalize cannabis.!?
2:20PM JAN 29TH 2013
legalize !!!!
we the people
2:00PM JAN 29TH 2013
we the people have the right to smoke or do whatevr we want if it does not infringe on others..who gives the goverment the right to tell me i can not smoke..if i am not harming anyone.then who r they to tell me how to live my life.in the years to come.people an the nation will come to understnad..it is WE the people that give the goverment the power.we can allow take it away
Brigitte Bosch
11:16AM JAN 25TH 2013
We need Florida to approve the use of Cannibis for medicinal use and lower it to a fine for small amounts to anyone else . This State could help so many people and with so many people retiring here that have medical problems there is a big chance they will start retiring to sunny California . Florida is not a backwoods State and needs to start getting on board with other states so more people stay here and move here .
1:01AM JAN 22ND 2013
Legalize it! 0 deaths....Nuff said
11:52PM JAN 17TH 2013
If we will go ahead and legalize it then when wouldn't have so many jail cells filled with people that are a actually good except for the fact that they smoke pot! It doesn't make since that our country is always complaining about us being so short in money than other country's but we can benefit it by just adding a lil tax to it!
9:41PM JAN 13TH 2013
Marijuana should not be a schedule 1 drug because of other actions by our Federal Government that contradict their belief that there is no medical benefits to marijuana and they are:

1. There is a Federal MMJ program (google "Federally supplied marijuana")
2. Us Patent #6630507 "Cannabinoids as anti-oxidants and neuroprotectants" Guess Who owns that patent; The US of A as represented by the Dept. of Health and Human Services.
9:09PM DEC 30TH 2012
i say pass it why soon we send tax dollar to fight it. I rather seen be around a pot head then a drunk. I don't smoke it but would rather use pot then some other meds out there if i had a choice. It would probably take alot of pill off the street. I do believe that should keep laws in place that it couldn't be use in front of your children. That should be a felon.
9:09PM DEC 30TH 2012
i say pass it why soon we send tax dollar to fight it. I rather seen be around a pot head then a drunk. I don't smoke it but would rather use pot then some other meds out there if i had a choice. It would probably take alot of pill off the street. I do believe that should keep laws in place that it couldn't be use in front of your children. That should be a felon.
James Dawson
9:50PM DEC 8TH 2012
the petiton site com /108 /legalize -marijuana -in -florida -2012/
Yes by all means... marijuana is far less harmful than any other drug and should be allowed for medicine in the state of florida
josh willis
3:26PM DEC 6TH 2012
I would rather cannabis be legal than alcohol. Then we would have more money to get out of this debt and there wouldn't be so many d.u.I.s and less money being spent on inmates who got caught with a joint.
Jill wells
2:17PM DEC 4TH 2012
greetings..where can I sign the petition for legalization of Marijuana in Florida..thank you
5:55PM NOV 29TH 2012
I hope FL finally legalizes med cannabis, i have Fibro, mugraines and CHAZ CHIARI which causes major pain and nausea. I have yet to see or hear anyone mention CHIARI, but all I know is that marijuana helps me a lit more than Zofran and Phenergan(nausea meds), which have a bunch of side-effects like most of the meds FDA approves everyday that end up killing patients. Never heard of this wonderful med killing anyone.
Zack Shinn
6:11PM NOV 28TH 2012
The fact that this plant is illegal is silly. It has healing and medicinal properties that have been proven to cure cancer and many other illness's. It's crazy to go on google and look up old propaganda posters that say, "Marijuana, The weed with roots from hell. It makes negros and mexicans rape white women and causes white women to have wild orgies with blacks and mexicans." Really? There have been 20 year studies conducted where people have smoked weed daily and they've had no negative side effects.....and there was only one orgy. but in all seriousness, this plant can save lives. People are just to smart these days to realize when they're being fed bull[filtered word] and told its truth.
1:53AM NOV 28TH 2012
Kush a commin to for your ailments.

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