Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Federal government should not interfere with medical marijuana in Florida

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is using the public health crisis of the nation's opioid epidemic to justify an assault on states that legally allow the medicinal use of marijuana. He is once again on the wrong side of the drug war with a policy that could actually drive rather than curb the drug trade. Given the death toll that opiates have taken in Florida, the state's attorney general, Pam Bondi, should use her clout with President Donald Trump to set the administration straight.

In a May letter that became public Monday, Sessions asked congressional leaders to remove from legislation any language that would prevent the Justice Department from using its funds or authority to preclude states "from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

Sessions said the protections, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, would "inhibit" his department's ability to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, and he said it would be "unwise" for Congress to tie the hands of federal prosecutors "in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime." Congress adopted the amendment in 2014.

"The department must be in a position," Sessions said, "to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives."

For Sessions to confuse the opioid epidemic with the right of states to administer medical marijuana in an orderly process is reckless. People are not dying from marijuana; they are dying from their addiction to deadly opiates. Speaking of the two in a single context only distorts reality. And it ignores the will of the voters in states who view medical marijuana not as a criminal threat but an exercise in public welfare. A Quinnipiac poll conducted in April found that it was supported by 94 percent of the public. Although the drug remains illegal under federal law, 28 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the use of medical marijuana in some form.

Cracking down on states where marijuana is legal could squeeze more people into the market for opiates, fueling a deadly cycle and violent crime. This may not be a consequence the attorney general intends, but it's a predictable scenario and a risk Florida cannot take. Of the 65,000 deaths estimated from drug overdoses nationwide last year, nearly 11,000 occurred in Florida. Bondi, who fought hard as attorney general against the pain-pill mills, should educate her counterpart in the federal government. Sessions needs to realize that the threat comes not from the deliberative process of states attending to the needs of those suffering chronic pain, but from the ease that narco-pushers enjoy in trafficking opiates.

Comments
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

Tampa Bay’s four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It’s believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18