Florida Sheriffs Oppose Medical Marijuana

Cops oppose

When marijuana advocates tried to legalize medical marijuana with Amendment 2 in Florida last year, no one was surprised that the Florida Sherriffs Association opposed the measure. Many of Florida’s law enforcement members claimed that they were not necessarily opposed to medical marijuana, but rather that they just thought adding it to the state’s constitution was a bad idea.

At the start of the new legislative session, the FSA got the chance to put its money where its mouth is when Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes introduced SB 528, a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Florida.

Unfortunately, when the FSA announced its position during its winter conference, it was exactly what we have come to expect from law enforcement. Voting 38 to 2, the Florida Sherriffs Association announced it opposed SB 528.

Falling back on tired rhetoric, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the FSA’s legislative chairman, told the Orlando Sentinel that he opposed the bill because of “loose language” that would enable “de facto recreational use.” He also added, “You don’t smoke medicine.”

That sentiment may come as a surprise to the thousands of people across the country that do smoke their medicine. Surely medical professionals will want to know about this discovery made by a law enforcement officer.

Once again claiming not to be necessarily against medical marijuana, the FSA released a nine point list of “core legislative principals” that would have to be in a medical marijuana bill in order to garner its support.

Here is a short summary of each point:

  1. Medical Marijuana must be put into a form with consistent dosing.
  2. Only those with the following conditions may have access to medical marijuana: HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia, and the terminally ill. [Noticeably absent in the list is chronic pain and muscle spasms.]
  3. Florida research institutes should request a federal waiver to study medical marijuana.
  4. Only licensed doctors or osteopathic physicians with a DEA registration number may recommend medical marijuana.
  5. Caregivers must be over 18, not a felon, and must receive medical training. [No elaboration on what “medical training” means.]
  6. Medical marijuana patients must have at least a 90 day relationship with their doctor in order to receive a recommendation.
  7. Action must be taken by each county commission in order to allow cultivation, manufacturing, or distribution [i.e. instead of allowing counties to opt-out of medical marijuana, counties will have to opt-in.]
  8. Any legislative action must require adequate inspection and enforcement of cultivation rules, including warrantless searches of facilities by law enforcement.
  9. Any legislation must prohibit: use of medical marijuana by anyone other than a recommended patient, use of a vehicle under the influence of medical marijuana, use by a minor without parental consent and on-site marijuana use in a correctional/detention facility, educational institution, or place of work.

As you can see, some of the recommendations aren’t so bad, but others are problematic. At the very least, it seems that Florida’s law enforcement community would support a medical marijuana program styled after New York’s program, but that is a questionable path considering New York’s program hasn’t been fully implemented.

Politics aside, it seems unethical for law enforcement officials to try and influence public opinion on a matter in which they aren’t qualified experts. The role of law enforcement is to enforce the law, not create it. The Florida Sherriffs Association is not a medical organization and for them to try and influence a medical issue is arrogant at best and dangerous at worst.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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