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Sheriff Don Eslinger, “Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot” Chief, Defines Opposition to Amendment 2

| September 30, 2014

Donald Eslinger, Seminole County sheriff, is opposed to Amendment 2 that would legalize medical marijuana. (Facebook)

Donald Eslinger, Seminole County sheriff, is opposed to Amendment 2 that would legalize medical marijuana. (Facebook)

Don Eslinger has been the sheriff of Seminole County since 1990, when he was appointed by then-Gov. Bob Martinez. He was elected sheriff in his own right in 1992 and has been re-elected five times since. A Republican, he is one of the leaders of the “Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot” campaign against Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana.

Eslinger began his career at the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office as a radio dispatcher in 1978. He later held a variety of positions in that office, then worked with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration as a task force agent. Eslinger returned to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office as commander of the City/County Investigative Bureau.


Eslinger has a bachelor’s degree in applied behavioral sciences from National Louis University and is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy in Quantico, Va. He also attended the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Chief Executive Institute and the National Academy of Corrections at the U.S. Department of Justice.

The News Service of Florida has five questions for Don Eslinger:

Q: How’s the campaign against Amendment 2 going? What’s your prediction?

ESLINGER: Well, the association has formed a coalition with about 137 other entities and other sheriffs, dontletfloridagotopot.com. The intent is to, obviously, inform Floridians of the amendment and how it’s flawed. And I think it’s going extremely well. It’s a grassroots campaign, conducted county by county, community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, to inform Floridians of the problem.

The latest poll numbers, about (53) percent in favor — I think that’s a SurveyUSA-WFLA poll — with about (15) percent undecided. (To pass, the ballot measure must get 60 percent of the vote.) I think it’s going extremely well, and I’m very hopeful that the numbers come out right for us.

(Why do you think the campaign has been effective?) Well, because — read the amendment. It’s flawed, and once people understand and see that this is embedded into a constitutional cement, so to speak … people understand that it can’t be fixed if there’s some unintended consequences. There’s no age requirement for a qualifying patient, no certification or education or training for a personal caregiver. The entire industry is held harmless, which is pretty fascinating. I can’t think of any industry in America that you cannot hold accountable civilly.

So, yeah, I think it’s working out. I think people understand that if there’s some unintended consequences, it can’t be easily fixed, and it’s resonating with people.

Q: Talk about the incident in Bell, Fla., where a man killed his daughter and her six children before taking his own life. Is there anything that child protection or law enforcement can do to prevent such tragedies?

ESLINGER: Other than what I’ve gleaned in the media, I’m not too familiar with the case. I don’t know the background. But I can tell you that in all the spree shootings, all the familicides that I’m familiar with, the common thread between all of these is untreated mental illness. And as you know, Florida ranks 49th or 50th in the country for funding with mental health services.

I think there’s a valuable tool available to law enforcement, to service providers, that is underutilized, and that is the assisted outpatient treatment that I think would have a positive effect on our quality of life. But in short, controlling human behavior is very, very difficult, and we all struggle with understanding that crime is a symptom of other problems that we’re experiencing. And that if we work well with others, with mental health service providers, then I think we can make a significant impact — and have, actually, within our jurisdiction.

Q: Also within your jurisdiction: Sanford after Trayvon Martin’s death. Why did Ferguson explode after Michael Brown’s death but Sanford didn’t after Trayvon Martin’s?

ESLINGER: Again, I don’t know the background on Ferguson, but in general terms, I could tell you that whenever there’s one particular incident that occurs that spurs civil unrest, obviously there is a problem with the relationship between law-abiding citizens of a particular community and law enforcement. The basic foundation of our strategy is partnerships with law-abiding citizens to work together to identify, nominate and to solve problems, require our deputies to be more analytical and have this good relationship. A core component to any relationship is communication.

Click On:


So although the Trayvon Martin incident occurred within the city of Sanford, it was investigated by the Sanford Police Department, our organization assisted the city leaders and other faith-based leaders within Sanford to mend, to facilitate good, open communication. During that time period — I don’t know if you know this or not —- but they had four police chiefs within that one-year period. From the tragic incident involving Zimmerman and Martin to the trial, there were four different chiefs.

So we worked hard with others to provide a safe, secure environment. The media reported tension and all that, but we didn’t see that in Seminole County. I’m very proud of the efforts of all the men and women of our organization that worked hard with the citizens of the Sanford community as well as the surrounding area to provide an enhanced level of communication during that time frame. When Zimmerman was arrested, we immediately began planning for a stand-your-ground hearing, and then subsequently for the trial. And we worked hard on that and provided a great deal of effort to achieve a calm community.

The only tension that we saw was from outside the community. Many news organizations anticipated problems, but we didn’t see the tension there. We really didn’t. In fact, the organizer of the first protest came to us. He’s a good friend of ours, pastor of a big church in Sanford, and explained that he’s got Al Sharpton and others coming and needed our assistance. And we took the lead on that protest, demonstration, and all the others following. And believe it or not, not one arrest. No behavior, no harm was committed during any of these protests or demonstrations. There was not one arrest made in that entire year.

Q: Seminole County’s juvenile detention facility is widely regarded as a model for such programs. Why has it worked?

ESLINGER: We devoted a great deal of resources within our organization to provide juvenile services, intervention services. We are one of a handful of sheriffs that conduct child protective services. We have our own juvenile assessment center. And juvenile detention was a great addition to the complement of programs that we have. We find it very beneficial to devote resources to intervene in a young person’s life when there’s maladaptive or delinquent behavior (that) presents itself. We work with the school board and other organizations to identify and to provide those services, with the hopes that once (the children) turn 18, they’re on the right track, and we don’t have to be concerned with their behavior as an adult.

The idea is that how we focus our attention and provide services now determines our success or failure as a community in the future. And our juvenile detention center is just one component to our overall strategy.

(Has Seminole County saved money by running its own juvenile facility?) Well, actually, it all kind of lined up. What happened in March of 2012 is that (the Department of Juvenile Justice) — I have a great relationship with (former) Secretary (Wansley) Walters and now (Interim) Secretary (Christy) Daly, and we do a lot. We have a very collaborative relationship with them. But they were going to close their facility in Seminole County. It was a building that was owned by the county that DJJ rented from the county, so we had the facility. They were going to move our children to a variety of areas — Orange County, Volusia County — and we thought it was the perfect time to move on this, and the commission agreed with us.

The first year, we saved $1 million. You know, DJJ does a great job, but we were able to provide a more comprehensive level of education and other services to our kids. And it’s important that we engage in this type of programs and initiatives to have an overall impact of our quality of life. Our crime rate is the lowest it’s ever been. Not just the rate, but some volume, like in burglaries. We’ve had less burglaries than we did in 1974, for example. So I’m really pleased at the collaborative environment in Seminole County, and our strategic approach to the overall quality of life, I think, has had an impact.

Q: There are people who say the sheriffs ought to provide child protection services, not the Department of Children and Families? Your thoughts?

ESLINGER: Yeah, well, that’s why in 2000, when I had the ability to do it, I jumped at the chance. The idea is not just to protect children and families, but to provide a better service, more comprehensive approach overall, to our quality of life.

It’s a fact that if a child is involved in delinquent behavior and/or is abused, neglected or abandoned, there’s a 14 times greater opportunity for him or her to engage in that behavior in the future. So it’s a great crime-prevention element, as well, to our overall strategy.

It’s a tough job. We’re running about 400 investigations a month, and it’s difficult. But some suggested that it was a great risk for sheriffs to be involved in this, and I thought it was a greater risk not to.

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

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21 Responses for “Sheriff Don Eslinger, “Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot” Chief, Defines Opposition to Amendment 2”

  1. Pogo says:

    “…I can’t think of any industry in America that you cannot hold accountable civilly…”

    Not one? Not even the soaked-in-blood-money firearms industry?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protection_of_Lawful_Commerce_in_Arms_Act

    It’s always good to own low people in high positions.

  2. 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 medical marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing sick patients and senior citizens in pain for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer 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.

  3. rickg says:

    Not a big surprise since all law enforcement received about $1 Billion in seizures from Marijuana charges in the last 10 years. Big business for those who deem it necessary to appropriate combat machines to police its citizens.

  4. ted bundy says:

    until there are laws and safeguards in place to keep the pot away from illegal use it should not be legal in florida..

  5. Disgusted says:

    Maybe if the Flagler County commissioners and the election supervisor smoked some pot they would stop fighting about picayune things.

  6. jim says:

    But our sheriff is ALL about letting Florida to go to pot!!!!!!

  7. Well... says:

    I just wish the majority of voters realized that Law Enforcement and Government are against legalizing medical marijuana for some very simple reasons.

    1. There will be less bodies in the prison system is medical marijuana is legalized, which translates into less money.

    2. There will be less seizures of marijuana, which results in less money.

    3. People will not need pharmaceutical medication for pain if they can use nature’s own pain killer. This is a double threat. Less money spent on pharmaceuticals can mean less money for lobbyists and the government officials reaping monetary benefits for their support. Less people addicted to hard core pain medication means less people breaking the law to obtain that medication (affects prison system).

    4. It is all about the money. Even though if marijuana were legal like tobacco and alcohol, the taxes the government could collect from growers, sellers, importers, exporters and users would be astronomical, they care more about penalizing marijuana users by throwing them in a prison system that is a big money business in America. Pharmaceutical pain killers are inherently more addictive than marijuana so the system will have more inmates, more money being spent on expensive pain killers, more addicts, etc.

    Bottom line – it is all about money and controlling how people manage their pain. The government would rather allow you to take a synthetic pain killer that can harm you or kill you than use a natural product grown from the earth. Sure, the opium poppy plant and the leaves of the coca plant are from nature as well and they produce an addictive substance, however, marijuana has been shown time and time again, in various scientific studies that it is not addictive.

  8. Sherry Epley says:

    Right ON “Well . . .says”! Follow the money directly to our totally corrupt penal system and those that feed it!

    When money is involved, justice, ethics, honesty, integrity, honor, patriotism, loyalty and egality (look it up) go right out the window! Then, in comes GREED. . . the down fall of our society and of our entire nation!!!

  9. cristina rey says:

    Vote NO on 2, just a scheme to legalize by the pot industry that makes horrible, permanent changes to our state constitution (for example, it gives full legal immunity to pot dealers and pot distributors = cannot sue them if you get hurt from their pot). Outrageous loopholes. Here is a short video that explains it:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF31iSVLYLM

  10. I/M/O says:

    From the President of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency Director.

    The marijuana of the past had a 2/3 TCI level.

    Today’s marijuana has a 30 TCI level, 15 times more powerful and is highly addictive and it’s use causes psychosis

    If you don’t want to follow the advice of your Sheriff then listen to your Presidents Director of Drug Enforcement. He has been warning the entire nation as to the danger of today’s new 30 TCI level marijuana all year.

    If the Medical Community wants to prescribe marijuana, if they think it helps certain patients then put a second ballot referendum up that limits the level of the TCI in medical marijuana that our doctors state is necessary.

    But marijuana with a 30 TCI level is a definite NO VOTE on election day.

    • John Smallberries says:

      I I/M/O , I replied to this exact same post you made regarding another article on here but you never addressed what I asked.

      First, could you tell us what TCI means? I can’t seem to find any references to it on the internet regarding cannabis, nor can I find any in medical journals either.

      I also can’t seem to find any references demonstrating cannabis as being highly addictive or it causing psychosis. Keep in mind, people that have tendencies that trend towards psychosis can have them realized by using cannabis, but I can’t seem to find anything in pubmed or any other reputable medical journal that discusses these apparent properties of cannabis.

      I do know that the DEA enjoys a decent amount of funding directly related to cannabis, and I do know that for-profit prisons see quite a bit of money when putting people away. You don’t suppose that this might have something to do with opposition to it? I mean, I couldn’t imagine that the head of an organization like the DEA would lie to preserve its budget of over 2 billion dollars, would he?

      • I/M/O says:

        Sorry John it is THC.

      • I/M/O says:

        John…The biggest supporters of illegal drug sales in this nation are Wall Street, Banks and business people.

        Wall Street brokers have no problem taking drug dealers money in legal investments.

        Bankers have no problem laundering drug dealers money as long as the deposits are kept in their banks.

        Real Estate Offices, Car Dealers, Boat Dealers, Airplane Dealers Clothing Stores, Jewelry Stores etc have no problem selling homes and their merchandise to drug dealers.

        Did you think the Drug/Dealers kept their money in their mattresses. No John thy hide in in legal investments such as stocks, bonds, real estate and they purchase high end merchandise to live a lavish life style.

        Do you think for one minute any of the above give one second of thought to a “Customer” willing to pay cash for a mansion, yacht, plane, boat or jewelry.

        Tell me John when was the last time you heard of arrests for drug use on Wall
        Street. The drug of choice for those who work on Wall Street has always been Cocaine. But to make arrests for dealing or drug use of Wall street workers would cause a confidence crisis.

  11. Michael Swannick says:

    Hi Everyone,

    As a former New York State Law Enforcement Sergeant and sick 9/11 First Responder, I’d like to explain why myself and many other sick Floridians need the passage of Amendment 2 come Nov. 4th.

    My Medical Conditions: Renal Cell Carcinoma – Right Nephrectomy, Papillary Cancer – Thyroidectomy, C.O.P.D., Asthma, Bronchitis, Bronchiectasis, Atelectasis, Reactive Airway Dysfunction Syndrome, Severe Sleep Apnea, Growing Lung Nodules, Right Temporal Brain Lesion, GERD, Pre Barrett’s – Severe Dysplasia, Degenerative Spinal Disease, Sinusitis, Rhinitis, unexplainable weight loss of 50+ pounds and RLS.

    I wasn’t always pro (Legalization of Medical Marijuana) Amendment 2. It wasn’t until the pain medication that I was prescribed starting making me sick, that’s when I decided to do some research and experiment with marijuana. When I found a 40% – 60% reduction in back pain, my RLS was 100% relieved and I had my appetite back (my weight loss has stabilized) with no stomach issues, that’s when I was convinced that medical marijuana was/is the correct course of treatment for my medical conditions. My quality of life has been increased dramatically, thanks to Marijuana.

    Prior to my experiments the only experience I had with marijuana was when I was a teen, I just couldn’t envision how patients were going to benefit by using this medication. But, I was basing my assumption on my past use when I was a kid, I wasn’t sick back then, I was a vibrant kid who felt great.

    I had no idea just how superior marijuana was/is over opiate medication. With one kidney, I need to be very careful when taking Vicodin, Oxycontin, Codeine and all the other dangerous, addictive pain medication that physicians are allowed to prescribe to patients. I don’t want to destroy my remaining kidney and end up on dialysis, aside from that… My stomach is shot from all the medications I’ve had to take over the years, as well as all the steroids and GERD. My stomach will no longer tolerate these medications, I get sick within 15 minutes and then my stomach is shot for the rest of the day. I’m out of options, If physicians can prescribe dangerous opiate medication, I cannot find any logical reason why they should not be permitted to prescribe a less harmful medication like marijuana. ALL medical treatment options should be between patients and their physicians, politicians and/or the law should have no business interfering with “ANY” treatment options that are available.

  12. I/M/O says:

    Questions to those who think medical marijuana should be legalized.

    If a person is so wracked with pain or so debilitated from an illness that a Doctor believes they should be smoking marijuana on a daily basis shouldn’t the person receiving the prescription have to surrender their Driver’s License?

    Should that not be part of any Legal Medical Marijuana Law to prevent others from abusing this law. Have we nit yet learned that once marijuana is legalized for medical purposes there are always those few Doctors who do not have any ethics and will abuse this law and give a patient claiming any sort of disability from an illness a prescription for marijuana as long as he gets paid for continuous Office Visits to renew the prescription.

    I am the last person who would deny a cancer victim medical marijuana. I have had 3 family members die of cancer in the last 10 years and none of them drove themselves to the Doctor or to treatments. We had to take them. They were two weak, or suffered from convulsions and passing out to risk driving a car.

    This referendum is not written correctly. It should specifically state if a Doctor believes a person needs marijuana to function the doctor should have them surrender their drivers license.

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