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Leave ridicule out of medical pot debate

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Published:   |   Updated: June 17, 2014 at 12:23 PM

Conspiracy theorists and amateur pundits thought they had it all figured out. Florida's proposed amendment to legalize medical marijuana was going to drive enough young voters to the polls in November to deliver the governor's mansion to Charlie Crist.

I guess that was based on the theory that Democrats are potheads, while Republicans prefer single-malt Scotch. It might have made a dandy story line right up to Election Day, but then a couple of things happened.

First, the GOP-led Legislature overwhelmingly approved a measure that allows doctors to prescribe a “non-euphoric” kind of pot to treat epileptic seizures.

Then, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the face of Democratic liberalism in our state, announced last week she is against the proposed amendment. In a statement, she said it was “written too broadly and stops short of ensuring strong regulatory oversight from state officials.”

That earned her a stern, overly personal rebuke from the power (and money) behind the medical marijuana push, Orlando trial attorney John Morgan — for the pot.

He told the Miami Herald Wasserman Schultz was “despised” in Washington and was an “irritant.” He said, “She should just become a bridesmaid for (Attorney General) Pam Bondi's next wedding.”

He told The Tampa Tribune, “I will never help her again.”

Great quotes, lousy attitude. Let's look at this through a different lens, shall we?

A Quinnipiac poll last month showed 88 percent of Floridians would vote to approve medical pot in November.

If that happens, doctor-prescribed marijuana would be much more widely available for any patient who says he or she needs it for pain. There are legitimate reasons to be wary about that.

Opponents say the amendment is basically a Trojan horse to eventually push for legalization of all forms of pot, and the longer this debate goes on the more it looks like they may have a point.

Colorado voters approved medical marijuana in 2010 and followed it two years later with legalized recreational pot.

It hasn't been smooth.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd had a cautionary tale for those who think legalized pot for all is a harmless high and good for the pizza industry. On assignment in Denver to write about Colorado pot-lovers' newfound freedom, she wrote about experiencing a night of hallucinations and paranoia after overdosing on a pot-laced candy bar bought legally in a store.

The Denver Post reported last year on increasing weed-related problems in Colorado schools. One resource officer told the newspaper, “Kids are smoking before school and during lunch breaks. They come into school reeking of pot. They are being much more brazen.”

It's a lot to think about.

The measure Florida lawmakers just passed is specific and limited. The November amendment, if passed, would greatly expand the availability of medical marijuana, and leaders are supposed to speak up on matters like this. If Wasserman Schultz believes the amendment is too loosely written, she had a duty to make her feelings known.

These issues deserve serious discussions before Floridians are asked to amend their state constitution. For everyone who trumpets the virtue of medical marijuana, there is someone else convinced it's too dangerous to allow.

And as the state's chief advocate for medical pot, Morgan should be embarrassed by his outburst. When someone raises a legitimate point like Wasserman Schultz did, they deserve more than ridicule.

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