Medical pot's negative impacts
Contrary to claims made by proponents of Amendment 2, legalized medical marijuana would have a negative impact on the economy and the jobless rate. The federal status of marijuana as an illegal drug, which would remain unchanged regardless of state law, could put employers in the difficult position of having to choose which law to follow: state or federal. This could lead to employee terminations.
The amendment will also lead to marijuana dispensaries cropping up in our neighborhoods. According to a Florida Department of Health report, Amendment 2 will lead to more than 1,700 pot shops statewide. This would almost guarantee the supply of marijuana would remain steady in places near our schools, playgrounds and parks.
The amendment also poses a threat to our children's safety. In Colorado, where marijuana has been legalized, marijuana-related emergency room visits of children under the age of 5 increased by 200 percent from 2006 to 2012 as sales of edible forms of marijuana became available, which include cookies, muffins and brownies. We simply can't let that happen here in Florida.
The amendment fails significantly to restrict the opening of marijuana shops in our neighborhoods. At present, counties might be able to control pot shop locations via zoning restrictions to industrial areas, an unappealing option to current or future business owners. Lawsuits alleging restricted access have been filed, however, against local governments in states with medical marijuana laws — costing taxpayers huge sums in legal fees.
As a community leader, I strive to promote policies that place the interests of our communities — including our children — above all else. Upon closer inspection, Amendment 2 falls short of that standard. I urge all Tampa Bay residents to oppose Amendment 2.
Susan Latvala, Pinellas County commissioner, Palm Harbor
Big budget items: facts and fictions | Oct. 5
Vaccines: money well spent
The Pew Research Center's poll concerning Americans' impression of the big budget items separates fact from fiction and illuminates an area of foreign policy that lacks proper U.S. investment. As current medical emergencies dominate the headlines, few citizens know that since 2000, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has worked with low-income countries, donor nations and the private sector to bring global immunization rates to an all-time high. In January 2015, Gavi will be seeking $7.5 billion to vaccinate 300 million more children by 2020, which will save more than 5 million additional lives.
Not only does an effort such as Gavi save lives, it also has the unintended benefit of building nations. It is time to invest in such an initiative. The United States should do its part, pledging to contribute $1 billion over four years. It is an investment to save lives and help build nations, as well as good foreign policy.
Barbara Drake, Tampa
Let's get Tampa Bay moving on transit Oct. 5, editorial
Problems with light rail
• You attempt to compare Charlotte, Minneapolis and Phoenix, all of which have light rail, with St. Petersburg/Clearwater. The populations of Charlotte (671,588), Minneapolis/St. Paul (654,643) and Phoenix (1,552,259) greatly exceed that of St. Petersburg/Clearwater (353,049). Charlotte's system is 9.6 miles long; Greenlight's is nearly three times as long. Whence the ridership for Greenlight?
Charlotte claims a ridership of 14,800 on its rail system. The number of riders is half that. Practically no one rides light rail one-way.
• You describe the cost to Pinellas taxpayers as reasonable. You offset the 1-cent raise in the sales tax by repealing the existing property tax for transit. Yet in Minneapolis, light rail is running such deficits that voters there are going to be tapped to make up the difference. How long do you suppose before Greenlight comes looking to have the property tax reinstated?
• You argue that light rail will spur development along the right-of-way. In the first place, land adjacent to the right-of-way is practically all built out. And secondly, neither commercial nor residential developers are enthusiastic about building next to a railway with its attendant noise.
• You suggest that industry, which you imagine will relocate from all over the country to Pinellas because we have light rail, will create any number of new jobs. Industry leaders are not lured by mass transit; they are lured by the availability of a skilled workforce.
Remove light rail from the equation and I'd vote for Greenlight in a heartbeat.
David Highlands, St. Petersburg
Vote no on Amendment 1 | Oct. 5, editorial
Legislature can't be trusted
I was shocked when I read your position on Amendment 1. Living on the Nature Coast watching our spring-fed rivers turn green makes me wonder what you think will happen if things go on as usual. The environment should not be held hostage by the political process. The Legislature has shown it will not protect the natural resources that make this state livable. These politicians cannot be trusted to fund anything but their next campaign.
Vickie Caligure, Homosassa
Vote no on Amendment 2 | Oct. 5, editorial
Power to the people
I am voting for medical marijuana, not only because I support the issue, but because of the citizen-led process that has brought this topical issue directly to Florida voters. This is the first time that I can remember in Florida when a socially relevant issue has been brought to the public for an up-or-down vote.
In California, where I just spent a few weeks, the statewide ballot proposition has become a meaningful way for the voters to express their opinion. Our Florida government is controlled by special interests and ignores the people's needs and interests. In time, through citizen ballot initiatives, voters will become more involved in the legislative process.
Donald Davis, Palm Harbor