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For or Against Medical Marijuana, Seven Ex-Supreme Court Justices Explain Why They Oppose Amendment 2

| September 14, 2014

It's happening in Washington State, but seven ex-justices of the Florida Supreme Court don;t want to see it in Florida. (Hammerin Man)

It’s happening in Washington State, but seven ex-justices of the Florida Supreme Court don;t want to see it in Florida. (Hammerin Man)

By Parker Lee McDonald, Leander J. Shaw Jr., Stephen H. Grimes, Major B. Harding, Charles T. Wells, Raoul G. Cantero III, and Kenneth B. Bell.

As former Florida Supreme Court justices, we once took an oath to protect the Constitution of the State of Florida.  Today, we call on all Floridians to protect it by voting “No” on Amendment 2.  This amendment, promoted as a compassionate effort to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, should be rejected – regardless of one’s position on the issue of medical marijuana.

Why should those who are both for and against medical marijuana vote No on Amendment 2? We offer five reasons.


First, the amendment is so broadly cast and vague, it will open the door to the general use of marijuana, not the carefully regulated medical use of a drug for those truly suffering.  When proposed amendments are placed on the ballot, voters only see a ballot title and ballot summary written by the amendment sponsors.  Most voters don’t have the time or inclination to read the full text of the actual amendment, much less study its impact. We have read the amendment and studied its impact. And, we are troubled by what voters are being told about Amendment 2.  Voters are led to believe that medical marijuana could only be used for “debilitating diseases.”  But the full text of the amendment allows the use of marijuana for virtually any medical condition at the discretion of any recommending physician, and no actual prescription is required.

Second, Amendment 2 endangers Floridians by granting broad immunity from criminal and civil liability to virtually everyone involved in the chain of custody of marijuana.  Today our criminal and civil justice systems protect citizens from harmful acts and compensate victims and families in cases of medical malpractice and negligence.  But under Amendment 2, those providing and using medical marijuana, including every “certifying physician,” would be immune from basic enforcement and accountability that protect our safety. This would make marijuana the only drug under Florida law for which providers, caregivers and users would be absolved from liability if someone is harmed from its use.

context floridaThird, Amendment 2 creates a right to use marijuana, coupled with a right to privacy for medical marijuana users, without regard to age.  This could be construed to allow minors to obtain marijuana for purported medical reasons without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

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Fourth, Amendment 2 creates the role of medical marijuana “caregiver.”  There is only one requirement to be a caregiver — be at least 21.  Amendment 2 requires no medical expertise, training or background checks for caregivers, who would have the authority to provide marijuana to multiple individuals.  This caregiver provision could be used as a legal shield to protect drug dealers from prosecution.  The Florida Department of Health estimates that if Amendment 2 passes, there will be approximately 250,000 caregivers and nearly 1,800 pot shops that would dispense marijuana.  This calls into question the state’s ability to adequately regulate the distribution of marijuana, since it would not be obtained from traditional pharmacies, but from shops run by the marijuana industry.

Fifth, if Amendment 2 is approved, it would be almost impossible to fix its many flaws because it would be enshrined in the Constitution, rather than being a general law that can be changed or improved as needed to respond to inevitable problems.

Whether marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes is an issue about which reasonable people disagree and more study is needed.  But anyone who reads the full text of Amendment 2 should readily agree that it is plagued by loopholes and vagueness that would lead to a myriad of unintended and undesirable consequences.  Amendment 2 doesn’t belong in Florida’s Constitution.  As former Florida Supreme Court justices who love Florida and its great Constitution, we urge voters to protect Florida’s Constitution by voting “No” on Amendment 2.

Parker Lee McDonald was chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court from 1986-88 and a justice from 1979-94. Leander J. Shaw Jr. was chief justice from 1990-92 and a justice from 1983-2003. Stephen H. Grimes was chief justice from 1994-96 and a justice from 1987-97. Major B. Harding was chief justice from 1998-2000 and a justice from 1991-2002. Charles T. Wells was chief justice from 2000-2002 and a justice from 1994-2009. Raoul G. Cantero III was a justice from 2002-2008. Kenneth B. Bell was a justice from 2003-2008.

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21 Responses for “For or Against Medical Marijuana, Seven Ex-Supreme Court Justices Explain Why They Oppose Amendment 2”

  1. Ron Cutler says:

    Please support amendment 2 by voting yes. This is a matter of individual choice and individual rights.

  2. TJ says:

    To quote Sherman T Potter “Horsehockey!”

  3. Marley says:

    Too bad you old folks are the minority now.

  4. Outsider says:

    Case very well stated. I find it amazing that certain well known Florida attorneys run around advocating approval of this amendment when they are quick to pursue medical malpractice against any other medical practitioner. I’m not against the use of any drug for those who really need it, but it sounds like if you tell your local “caretaker,” read “drug dealer,” you have a headache, you are in. It doesn’t sound highly regulated at all to me. This amendment is just a run around the legislative process, as certain politicians are keen on doing these days.

  5. John Smallberries says:

    “But the full text of the amendment allows the use of marijuana for virtually any medical condition at the discretion of any recommending physician, and no actual prescription is required.”

    Ok, so your complaint is that the amendment allows a physician to determine whether or not a treatment plan is valid for a given patient. What exactly is your problem with this?

    “This would make marijuana the only drug under Florida law for which providers, caregivers and users would be absolved from liability if someone is harmed from its use.”

    Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Nice, scary words. Do you honestly think that someone who drove while high and killed someone would be absolved from their actions? Hint: no.

    “Third, Amendment 2 creates a right to use marijuana, coupled with a right to privacy for medical marijuana users, without regard to age.”

    Correct. Perhaps you should mention that HIIPA, the federal act that regulates who and what gets your medical information. No, you don’t have the right to my medical records, regardless of what drugs I’ve been prescribed by my doctor, except under exceptional circumstances. Hope that helps, I know it has to burn that you can’t just walk through people’s medical records like you want to, but tough I guess.

    “There is only one requirement to be a caregiver — be at least 21. Amendment 2 requires no medical expertise, training or background checks for caregivers, who would have the authority to provide marijuana to multiple individuals.”

    Again, correct. If my immobilized-from-pain-and-cancer grandmother is unable to get dosed because she’s too weak to get up and get her dose, that’s where caregivers come in. It’s to protect people that ADMINISTER the drug from prosecution.

    “Fifth, if Amendment 2 is approved, it would be almost impossible to fix its many flaws because it would be enshrined in the Constitution, rather than being a general law that can be changed or improved as needed to respond to inevitable problems.”

    Would you like the public to walk carefully through each of your records and see what civil liberties you’ve crapped all over as supreme court justices, since your decisions are enshrined in legal decisions? This is a laughable argument.

  6. Brian Kelly says:

    Fear of Medical Marijuana Legalization is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever.

    So please, all prohibitionists, we beg you, give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Medical Marijuana a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

    Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of Medical Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

    The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol and definitely so much less dangerous than daily handfuls of deadly, toxic, man-made, highly addictive, narcotic pain pills and other pharmaceuticals .

    If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

    Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

    Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

    When a loved one is in pain, wasting away unable to eat, and needs this marvelous herb in order to increase their appetite, reduce the overwhelming pain, and live as as healthy and happily as they can with the time they have left, let’s have the compassion to allow them to have it.

    Stop treating Medical Marijuana Patients like second rate citizens and common criminals by forcing them to the dangerous black market for their medicine.

    Risking incarceration to obtain the medicine you need is no way to be forced to live.

    Support Medical Marijuana Now!

    “[A] federal policy that prohibits physicians from alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane.” — Dr. Jerome Kassirer, “Federal Foolishness and Marijuana,” editorial, New England Journal of Medicine, January 30, 1997

    “[The AAFP accepts the use of medical marijuana] under medical supervision and control for specific medical indications.” — American Academy of Family Physicians, 1989, reaffirmed in 2001

    “[We] recommend … allow[ing] [marijuana] prescription where medically appropriate.” — National Association for Public Health Policy, November 15, 1998

    “Therefore be it resolved that the American Nurses Association will: — Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision.” — American Nurses Association, resolution, 2003

    “The National Nurses Society on Addictions urges the federal government to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category immediately, and make it available for physicians to prescribe. NNSA urges the American Nurses’ Association and other health care professional organizations to support patient access to this medicine.” — National Nurses Society on Addictions, May 1, 1995

    “[M]arijuana has an extremely wide acute margin of safety for use under medical supervision and cannot cause lethal reactions … [G]reater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use.” — American Public Health Association, Resolution #9513, “Access to Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis,” 1995

    “When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients … We support state and federal legislation not only to remove criminal penalties associated with medical marijuana, but further to exclude marijuana/cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug.” — American Academy of HIV Medicine, letter to New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, November 11, 2003.

  7. Kathy says:

    In the past 25 years I’ve used marijuana a total of 5 times at most so please don’t mistake me as a regular user (not sure if I qualify as a user at all actually). Alcohol, on the other hand, I partake in it’s use once, sometimes twice a week…it’s what’s legal.

    Alcohol is far more frightening to me ~ from the CDC ~ Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years.1,2 Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years.

    That 88,000, I believe, doesn’t include accidents (both vehicle or sustained from an unstable gait).

    From the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse regarding teens ~ Underage drinking risks include:
    Death – 5,000 people under age 21 die each year from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning.
    Serious injuries – More than 190,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries in 2008 alone.
    Impaired judgment – Drinking can cause kids to make poor decisions, which can then result in risky behavior like drinking and driving, sexual activity, or violence.
    Increased risk for physical and sexual assault – Youth who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault.
    Brain development problems – Research shows that brain development continues well into a person’s twenties. Alcohol can affect this development, and contribute to a range of problems.

    I find this all more frightening than the result of marijuana use. I wish the same information were available as laid out for alcohol so we can look at this side by side from the same government sources as we all know marijuana is not harm-free. It, to me, feels like the lesser of the two evils.

    When have you heard of police called in to break up large fights where marijuana was the base of the irrational thinking that led to the events? Or domestic abuse where, again, marijuana was the base of that irrational thinking? Or just out with friends and are bothered by a stranger and said to your friends lets keep moving we’re not safe here that person is high? Drunk, sure, but I’ve not experienced a problem out in public due to a stranger consuming too much marijuana.

    Doesn’t legal, even in this small step, reduce the dangers of interacting with dealers? And reduce the possibility of picking up something that may be laced with who knows what?

    I appreciate the information in the article but I will still vote yes…yes, please.

  8. Mick says:

    Replace the word marijuana with alcohol. AMAZING, ah mate ?

  9. Retired FF says:

    Great information. I am all for getting sick people the care they need, but the last thing we need in Florida is some law that will allow basically uncontrolled distribution of marijuana. I am surprised that with Attorney John Morgan being so involved with getting this law passed that there isn’t tighter language regarding who can be sued from malpractice since he basically built his fortune on suing people/companies.

  10. VOTEYES ON2 says:

    It’s ironic that irrelevant justices would make comments on something of this nature. We have to realize these people are all from the Reefer Madness days.. They don’t look at it as a medicine or a safe alternative to prescription drugs, they look at it likes it’s just as bad as cocaine, when in reality it’s even safer than something completely legal… alcohol. You notice how all the comments are pro-2? It’s these very people who will be getting off their asses to go vote yes come November. If there’s anyone out there seriously opposing this amendment they’ve yet to show themselves. Other than ads, people who stand to gain profit off the further criminalization of marijuana seem to be the only ones opposing it, and they insult voters by using scare tactics. They make claims such as, any minor without their parents will be able to get a prescription for “pot” (which is another scare tactic; they still call marijuana by recreational/street names) when in reality, anyone with critical thinking capabilities would think to themselves, “Do I honestly know any doctors who are going to give marijuana to children for just any reason?” or “Since when do kids go to a doctor without their parents present?” They pump large amounts of money into their anti-amendment campaign not because they “care about the safety of Floridians” but because they know if they fail at keeping the public from their medicine they will no longer legally be allowed to extort the way they’ve been doing for years. They figure with enough ads in your face it will change your mind… But it shouldn’t change anybody’s minds, not if they have at least an ounce of intelligence. Stop the ignorant scare tactics, vote YES on 2.

  11. Alcoholic says:

    I’m an alcoholic. In the past 25 years, I’ve been divorced twice, got 2 DUIs (I should’ve been arrested 1000’s of times), lost 2 jobs, and wrecked 4 cars. I lost count of how many times, while drunk, that I’ve been in fights, arguments and brushes with the law that I was fortunate not to be arrested for. Injuries while drunk? Too many to count. Half of them I don’t know how they occurred because of blackouts. The crazy thing is I can legally buy alcohol in probably millions of places just in Florida.

    During the periods that I “gave up drinking for good”, ” I mean it this time, I’m done”, I would smoke pot daily. Guess how often I had the above stated problems from my pot use? ZERO. It’s a joke that so many people are freaked out about pot becoming legal. Yet these same people sit back and say nothing about the destruction that legal alcohol consumption creates. How many of these same people have the same demons they have to fight because of their own alcoholism? How many of them have seen the destruction of the lives of an alcoholics family, friends, or strangers because of their alcohol abuse?

    WAKE UP THE REALITY PEOPLE!!!

  12. Bob Fortier says:

    Reefer Madness lives on…BTW to those living under a rock, Reefer Madness was a movie from the thirties that illustrated people going mad after smoking week. Worth watching…

    • Kathy says:

      That certainly was an interesting dramatization. Have you seen the very real 20/20 program regarding Steubenville Ohio from the year 2013 regarding the consequences of the readily available, in almost every home, use of alcohol that is legal? However not legal for these kids but since it’s legal it seems to be in even the most snootiest of homes…it’s hard to watch but worth the time…. http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/steubenville-partys-18795344

  13. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    Let’s not forget this initiative is on the ballot for one reason and one reason only, to generate voter turn out in a non-presidential election year so John Morgan’s hand picked puppet, Charlie Suntan can become Governor again. The same Charlie Suntan who fought against medical marijuana as Florida’s Attorney General and then again as Governor!

    That said… I’ll be voting for amendment 2. I’ve never once smoked Marijuana or taken any other “illegal” drug, but it’s time to end this ridiculous war on drugs and this is a good start. If one severely sick person finds even an ounce of relief from medical marijuana, who am I to stand in their way?

  14. TJ says:

    It seems that those who are against clearly feel that doctors are pushers. That they will gladly give Marijuana to children.

    They also seem to insist that despite the actual language of the amendment that all doctors will gladly give Marijuana to to anyone who complains of aches and pains, alergies, rainy day blues, etc.

    Utter Lunacy!

  15. rst says:

    Well said Brian and Kathy; nothing much more need be said. However, I too am glad that the prohibitionists are in the minority. Praise the Lord and pass the Doritos! For those of you that continue to harp about crime rates increasing, drug use increasing, crashes increasing, and the moral decay of society, CHECK THE DATA AND RESEARCH and then write your apology to those in the know. More specifically, don’t tell me what you think; tell me what you know. I don’t give a s*^t about your morals. I have my own. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  16. JG says:

    Y’all think that if HCA had the monopoly on distribution marijuana wouldn’t already be legal?

  17. Jennifer S. says:

    “Most voters don’t have the time or inclination to read the full text of the actual amendment, much less study its impact. We have read the amendment and studied its impact. And, we are troubled by what voters are being told about Amendment 2.”

    SO let us do the thinking for you because we are appealing to the “reasonable people” who can still be reasonable but not thoughtful insofar as doing their own research & making up their own minds… go with all the other frightened parrots & vote “no”.

    This is an insult to intelligence & the article undermines its own opinion.

    My YES vote is ‘burning’ a hole on my ballot.

  18. rickg says:

    I have relatives that live in California and Colorado… I keep in touch with them regularly… they see no difference in what goes on in their respective communities. California has had medical marijuana for many years and Colorado recently legalized the recreational use of the plant. The community hasn’t disintegrated nor has it collapsed. Vote yes on Amendment 2

  19. ryan says:

    For those who say that medical marijuana is immoral, I guess that you approve putting people in jail who have cancer, AIDS, rheumatoid arithritis and use it in the privacy of their own home to relieve pain. Yes. It has happened quite a bit. It is a waste of tax dollars to prosecute people like that and is just plain cruel. We have real crime like gang activity such as dog fighting and hard drug dealing, as well as domestic terrorism to worry about and it is a waste of precious financial resources to keep screwing around with prosecuting pot heads. If protecting children is such a priority, why don’t we focus on bath salts and the illegal prescription drugs so widely available on our streets that are killing our children every day, and are highly addictive.

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