Editor's note: Seven former Florida Supreme Court justices signed this column that explains why they oppose Amendment 2 on the November ballot that would legalize medical marijuana. They are former Justices Parker Lee McDonald, Leander J. Shaw Jr., Stephen H. Grimes, Major B. Harding, Charles T. Wells, Raoul G. Cantero III and Kenneth B. Bell.
As former Florida Supreme Court justices, we once took an oath to protect the Constitution of the state of Florida. Today, we call on all Floridians to protect it by voting no on Amendment 2. This amendment, promoted as a compassionate effort to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, should be rejected — regardless of one's position on the issue of medical marijuana.
Why should those who are both for and against medical marijuana vote no on Amendment 2? We offer five reasons.
First, the amendment is so broadly cast and vague, it will open the door to the general use of marijuana, not the carefully regulated medical use of a drug for those truly suffering. When proposed amendments are placed on the ballot, voters only see a ballot title and ballot summary written by the amendment sponsors. Most voters don't have the time or inclination to read the full text of the actual amendment, much less study its impact. We have read the amendment and studied its impact. And we are troubled by what voters are being told about Amendment 2. Voters are led to believe that medical marijuana could only be used for "debilitating diseases." But the full text of the amendment allows the use of marijuana for virtually any medical condition at the discretion of any recommending physician, and no actual prescription is required.
Second, Amendment 2 endangers Floridians by granting broad immunity from criminal and civil liability to virtually everyone involved in the chain of custody of marijuana. Today our criminal and civil justice systems protect citizens from harmful acts and compensate victims and families in cases of medical malpractice and negligence. But under Amendment 2, those providing and using medical marijuana, including every "certifying physician," would be immune from basic enforcement and accountability that protect our safety. This would make marijuana the only drug under Florida law for which providers, caregivers and users would be absolved from liability if someone is harmed from its use.
Third, Amendment 2 creates a right to use marijuana, coupled with a right to privacy for medical marijuana users, without regard to age. This could be construed to allow minors to obtain marijuana for purported medical reasons without the knowledge or consent of their parents.
Fourth, Amendment 2 creates the role of medical marijuana "caregiver." There is only one requirement to be a caregiver — be at least 21 years old. Amendment 2 requires no medical expertise, training or background checks for caregivers, who would have the authority to provide marijuana to multiple individuals. This caregiver provision could be used as a legal shield to protect drug dealers from prosecution. The Florida Department of Health estimates that if Amendment 2 passes, there will be approximately 250,000 caregivers and nearly 1,800 pot shops that would dispense marijuana. This calls into question the state's ability to adequately regulate the distribution of marijuana, since it would not be obtained from traditional pharmacies but from shops run by the marijuana industry.
Fifth, if Amendment 2 is approved, it would be almost impossible to fix its many flaws because it would be enshrined in the Constitution, rather than being a general law that can be changed or improved as needed to respond to inevitable problems.
Whether marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes is an issue about which reasonable people disagree and more study is needed. But anyone who reads the full text of Amendment 2 should readily agree that it is plagued by loopholes and vagueness that would lead to a myriad of unintended and undesirable consequences. Amendment 2 doesn't belong in Florida's Constitution.