Sheriffs Say ‘No’ To Senator’s Pot Proposal
By Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida // February 5, 2015
63 of 67 sheriffs opposed original bill
ABOVE VIDEO: Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey sat down with SpaceCoastDaily.com to discuss the ramifications of the original medical marijuana bill. Sixty-three of the 67 sheriffs in Florida opposed the original bill.
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – After helping defeat a November ballot measure that would have legalized medical marijuana, Florida’s sheriffs said Tuesday they also object to a Republican lawmaker’s attempt to make pot available to patients.
The Florida Sheriffs Association, meeting at Amelia Island, voted to oppose a bill (SB 528) filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, that would allow medical marijuana and set up a detailed regulatory structure involving patients, doctors, growers and retail stores.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who is the association’s legislative chairman, said Brandes’ proposal included “loose language” that the sheriffs worried could allow “de facto recreational use” of marijuana.
Among other things, Gualtieri said the sheriffs oppose any medical marijuana that could be smoked by patients. Cannabis can also be used in other ways, such as in oils.
“You don’t smoke medicine,” Gualtieri told reporters.
Brandes filed his bill last week, less than three months after voters narrowly turned down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have legalized medical marijuana.
The sheriffs association and other opponents argued, in part, that the ballot measure included loopholes that would have made marijuana available to people who did not have debilitating medical conditions.
With the annual legislative session starting March 3, it is too early to know whether Brandes’ bill has a chance of passing — or what the effect of the sheriffs’ opposition might be.
Brandes’ proposal would need approval from three committees before reaching the Senate floor, and a companion measure has not been filed in the House.
“It is critically important that we thoroughly vet any proposal related to medical cannabis, and I am confident that this legislation will be carefully reviewed through the legislative process,” Brandes said last week in a statement issued after he filed the bill.
“Many groups have been working on this initiative for quite some time and my goal is to work openly with all of the interested parties on this issue so that we can pass responsible legislation that provides relief to those Floridians in need.”
If lawmakers do not approve a legalization bill, backers of the 2014 ballot measure have vowed to bring back another proposed constitutional amendment in 2016.
Under Brandes’ bill, patients who suffer from cancer, HIV, AIDS, epilepsy, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease or Parkinson’s disease could qualify to receive medical marijuana if they receive certification from their doctors.
Also, patients could qualify if they have conditions that lead them to chronically suffer from symptoms such as wasting syndrome, severe and persistent pain, severe and persistent nausea, persistent seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms, according to the bill.
St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar, president of the sheriffs association, said he likes parts of the bill, such as a provision that would give county commissions control about issues such as whether to allow medical-marijuana retail stores and where the stores could be located.
Shoar and Gualtieri also expressed compassion for patients with serious conditions who might be helped by cannabis.
But the association issued a lengthy list of “core legislative principles” that included stances such as opposing medical marijuana that can be smoked.
Also, the principles said medical marijuana should be limited to people who have cancer, epilepsy, HIV, AIDS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia.
Also, exceptions could be made for people who are terminally ill.
“A patient must not receive medical marijuana for general ‘pain’ because pain is not a disease,” one of the principles said.
“Pain is one of five vital signs assessed by a medical professional, which also includes temperature, pulse, respirations, and blood pressure.”