1. Health

Ex-Florida Supreme Court justices against amendment for medical marijuana

Published Sep. 9, 2014

TALLAHASSEE — A group fighting Amendment 2 has won the backing of seven former state Supreme Court justices to oppose the effort to legalize medical marijuana. But the spokesman for a group working to secure the measure's passage downplayed the development, saying the current court is what matters.

A divided Florida Supreme Court ruled in January that ballot language for a proposed constitutional amendment meets all legal requirement.

"It strikes us as disrespectful to the sitting justices on the bench that these former members of the highest court in our state would publicly question the decisions of the court in such a manner," Ben Pollara, spokesman for United for Care, the prime group fighting for Amendment 2, wrote in an email.

In a press statement, billed as a "paid political advertisement paid for by Drug Free Florida Committee," former justice Kenneth B. Bell said the ballot box was not the way to deal with the medical marijuana issue.

"Once an amendment is in the constitution, it is extremely difficult to change. A subject such as this should be addressed by general law,'' he wrote.

"The Legislature has already legalized a strain of low-THC marijuana for medical use that is not smoked. Any expansion of marijuana use should reflect further development in medical knowledge and have a carefully limited scope, which Amendment 2 does not do."

Bell referred to a noneuphoric strain of marijuana, known as Charlotte's Web, to treat conditions such as epilepsy, Lou Gehrig's disease and cancer. It's mostly touted for helping children who suffer from severe epilepsy. Authorized patients will be allowed access to the drug through oil or vapor form, but it may not be smoked.

If 60 percent of Florida voters approve Amendment 2, it would allow doctors to recommend other forms of marijuana, including a form that can be smoked, to treat more conditions.

Pollara said, "While we have the utmost respect for the past service and unquestionable legal acumen of the former justices, their legal opinions are irrelevant. What is relevant is the majority opinion of the current Supreme Court of Florida - that which placed amendment 2 on the ballot this fall."

The former Florida Supreme Court Justices who have announced their opposition to the amendment, according to the Drug Free Florida Committee, are:

Parker Lee McDonald, chief justice 1986-1988; justice 1979-1994; appointed by Gov. Bob Graham

Leander J. Shaw Jr., chief justice 1990-1992; justice 1983-2003; appointed by Graham

Stephen H. Grimes, chief justice 1994-1996; justice 1987-1997; appointed by Gov. Bob Martinez

Major B. Harding, chief justice 1998-2000; justice 1991-2002; appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles

Charles T. Wells, chief justice 2000-2002; justice 1994-2009; appointed by Chiles

Raoul G. Cantero, III, justice 2002-2008; appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush

Kenneth B. Bell, justice 2003-2008; appointed by Bush