Regarding proposed Amendment 2

This guest post by Michael Reagen provides excellent information for voters’ decision-making about Amendment 2, Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions. Dr. Reagen is a citizen member of The Fort Myers News-Press Editorial Board, and this opinion piece appeared in the News-Press Sunday, October 12. It is republished here with his permission, because I too will vote no on Amendment 2. But its appearance does not constitute endorsement by Dr. Reagen of any of my past or future posts.

Michael Reagen

Vote No on Amendment 2
By Michael Reagen, Naples

By absentee ballot, I voted “No” on Amendment 2 and I hope 60 percent of Floridians will also vote “No.”

Years ago, I directed the Institute for Drug Abuse Education at Syracuse University and edited a book of papers by experts on illicit drug use, including marijuana or “MJ,” as we called it then. Since then, I have had mixed feelings about the legal classifications, law enforcement obligations and criminal penalties for growing, selling, possessing and using MJ … all issues for maybe another column because they are complicated aspects of our complex society. So, before voting, I read, asked questions and thought a lot.

I am now convinced Amendment 2 is not a good proposal and I enthusiastically voted “No!” Here’s why.

Administration problems
If enacted, Amendment 2 will permit growing, buying, possessing and using medical MJ when recommended by a physician to treat certain medical conditions.

Among those urging to vote “No” on Amendment 2 are the Florida Medical Association, Florida Sheriff’s Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Institute of Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Association, Food and Drug Association, Drug Enforcement Agency, American Society of Addiction Medicine, and Drug Free Florida.

All of us seek pleasure, avoid pain and try to advance what we think is our personal advantage. But most in health care, science, law enforcement and human services professions live lives that are primarily motivated to seek social balance and the common good. If they are worried about the administration of medical MJ, so am I.

Efficacy issues
There is no credible scientific evidence recognized by the FDA that it has good health efficacy. Rather, considerable evidence exists to suggest regular use of MJ has the opposite effect and bad ramifications, including opening the door for use of more serious, addictive drugs to initially help folks feel happy. Surely, before we enact a law permitting a drug’s use to improve health, we should have rigorous evidence that it will do so.

Amendment 2 does say medical MJ may be used for treatment of a few illnesses and says regulations that will have the force of law must be developed by the Florida Department of Health and be reasonable, available and posit safe use. But the protocols for all of these have yet to be fully developed. And to do so properly will take a while.

Meanwhile, upon enactment, pressure will build on physicians and law enforcement. Florida, sadly, has seen its small share of doctors who have illegally profited from pushing pills. Many physicians, I am told, worry about pressure to prescribe MJ in the future.

Wrong process
Many public opinion polls suggest a large percentage of Americans are pessimistic about the future and deeply disenchanted by the lack of balanced problem-solving by our elected officials. Surely, we are gridlocked in Washington, and several state legislatures seemingly are not focusing on core infrastructures and human service issues.

Florida has a proclivity for using its constitutional amendment process to historically deal with issues involving gestating pigs to now medical MJ. Many, including me, view national and state constitutions, county and municipal charters as sacral in our secular society which should only be subject to rare, thoughtful and well-studied changes. Many believe our elected officials, our legislators … those elected to make policy … should carefully and thoughtful enact laws to minimize unintended, rippling consequences.

I voted No to Amendment 2 because I think the Legislature should take the time to properly study and deal with the issue of legalizing the medical use of a now illicit drug.

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