Florida Vote Shuns Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana is becoming more established across America as more states are retreating from their skepticism and enabling its legalization. The state of Florida will not be one of them – at least for another two years.
Medical Marijuana Amendment Falls at Florida Polls
In addition to a heated race for governor and fighting for control of the senate for their respective parties, citizens of Florida were faced with another important decision at the polls this week: whether the state legislature should amend its constitution to legalize medical marijuana. Despite 57% percent of the votes being in favor of the amendment, it failed to clear the 60% mark needed to amend the state constitution in Florida, keeping the Sunshine State marijuana-free (legally speaking) until at least 2016.
That came as a relief to those who worked so diligently to educate the public on the amendment’s potential side effects, like Calvina Fay, executive director of St. Petersburg’s Drug Free America Foundation. “We are very happy that our quality of life here in Florida is going to be preserved,” Fay told the Tampa Bay Times. “We are not going to be seeing pot shops everywhere. We are not going to see opportunities for marijuana to be promoted for our children. We are happy the voters in our state took time to actually read the amendment and vote smart.”
Critics of Medical Marijuana Cite Ambiguity as Cause for Concern
Indeed reading the amendment seemed to be an important part of the process for those who voted against the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use. While several specific diseases were listed as qualifiers, such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, ambiguity in other areas of the ballot language left an uncomfortable potential for exploitation hanging over the amendment. It would have permitted doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients suffering from other debilitating conditions, with the term “debilitating” obviously being left to interpretation.
Critics said that such broad language could easily allow for “pot mills” – medical facilities that illegally provide scripts for unqualified “patients” – and could lead to abuse by users looking for a high and street-level entrepreneurs looking for a profit. It’s a legitimate concern given the pill mill problem that has already ravaged the state.
But It’s Just Pot, Right?
That kind of cautious criticism may seem comical to less sophisticated supporters of medical marijuana. Sure, there are plenty of real-life stories of patients who have benefited greatly from using marijuana for medicinal purposes, and there are few people left at this stage of the game denying the fact that the right amount of medical marijuana can be a good thing for the right person in the right time. However, there is an ever-present portion of the population that supports the legalization of medical marijuana, and even marijuana for recreational use, on the notion that pot isn’t really that bad for you, or that it isn’t actually addictive.
The problem with that kind of thinking is that there is mounting medical evidence to support the contrary. Recent studies have illustrated that heavy marijuana use by young adults is associated with changes in brain structure that are linked to loss of motivation, increased anxiety and cognitive impairments – not just while the individual is under the influence. In April, a new study determined that even light use of marijuana, as little as once a week, may cause structural changes to the size and shape of two important brain regions. It was the first study to show that even casual use of marijuana may contribute to major brain changes in people under 25 years old.
Despite the common misconception that marijuana isn’t addictive, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates nearly 10% of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it. That number jumps north of 16% when it comes to people who start using in their teens, which becomes even more significant when you take into consideration that 61% of people under the age of 15 reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse in 2010. Combine these facts with marijuana’s notorious reputation as a gateway to drugs that are even more addictive and potentially fatal, and it becomes easy to see why Floridians are hesitant to enact a law that makes it legal on any level.
Just because a substance becomes legal, it doesn’t become any less addictive, and those struggling with the grasp of that addiction do not become any less deserving of the help and support they need to overcome it. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or substance abuse of any kind, you don’t have to face it alone. Call The Watershed today at 1-800-861-1768.Tags: marijuana legalization, medical cannabis, medical marijuana