State Republican Senator Jack Latvala is fighting the expansion of medical marijuana in the state. Florida voters will decide whether to kickstart the state’s fledging pot industry at the ballot box in November.
Florida already allows certain patients to use medical marijuana, including people with terminal illnesses, cancer and chronic seizures. Constitutional Amendment 2 on the ballot this November would let more patients join that list, including those with HIV, Parkinson’s disease and PTSD. But State Senator Jack Latvala says the scientific community doesn’t support pot.
“We have no scientific evidence that there’s any medicinal value for marijuana,” he said.
A 2015 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows there is some evidence for using cannabis to treat chronic pain. But the Food and Drug Administration maintains there is currently no accepted medical use for the drug.
Former state Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell's isn't against cannabinoids, and says he understands the drug could be a viable alternative to opioids. He just doesn't want it inked into the state constitution.
"It's not opposition to marijuana for me personally, it's the method of that," Bell said.
And Latvala agrees, saying the issue should go to the Legislature.
“I’m concerned that the constitution is permanent. That once it’s there, even when we finally have scientific proof, and there’s no doubt in my mind that it will happen someday, that we won’t be able to change it without another vote of the people,” Latvala said.
But proponents of the measure say state lawmakers are dragging their feet. 57% of voters supported a similar amendment in 2014 – a majority, but just shy of the 60% needed for approval. Recent polls show public support has grown since then, with between 61% and 84% of Floridians favoring expanded access to medical marijuana.