As Election Day draws near, opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment permitting the use of medical marijuana in Florida have been on the attack, alleging that approval would lead to dangerous consequences.
Wednesday, backers of the amendment tried to allay such concerns by issuing a list of recommended regulations for the state Department of Health to put in place.
If the measure passes, the state will have until next summer to draft regulations and put the system into place. In other states, the details of growing, distributing and using medical marijuana can fill hundreds of pages of regulations.
One broad suggestion of how the system should work was released Wednesday by the "Florida for Care Blue Ribbon Commission,'' a group set up by the amendment's sponsor, United for Care.
Among the "principles" the group is recommending:
• Dispensaries should be at least 1,000 feet from schools, day care centers and drug rehab facilities.
• "Personal caregivers," who pick up the pot at the dispensary and deliver it to the patients, cannot be felons unless they are immediate family members or had their rights restored. A recent TV ad by opponents warns that caregivers can be drug dealers.
• Physicians should have previously treated a patient before issuing a certificate that qualifies the patient to use medical marijuana. And every certificate should be followed by an annual exam.
• Physicians should never issue a marijuana card to a minor without parental consent.
Chairing the commission is attorney Jon Mills, a former speaker of the Florida House, who drafted the proposed amendment for United for Care and defended it before the Florida Supreme Court.
The vice chairman is former state Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a Republican who opposes Amendment 2, but worked on suggesting regulations to make sure the system works well, the release said.
"When Amendment 2 passes, it will be helpful for the Legislature to get a head start with implementing legislation," said Mills in a press release. "We brought people with different points of view and identified major principles, visions and policies to be implemented."
Opponents have warned that the amendment could have serious unintended consequences because the ballot language will be written into the state constitution, and that would take precedence over any regulatory law or legislation that conflicts with the ballot language.
Stephen Nohlgren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org