By Ana Mejia
The legalization of marijuana is a topic that has been debated for a long time. It is a classic for persuasive speeches or presentations in class. It is ever present in the news and in political debates.
The legalization of marijuana is also a very dividing topic across political parties, the Democrats usually side in favor of it.
Medical Cannabis patients in Florida were happy to find out that Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, signed a bill on March 18 that legalizes smokable medical marijuana. The 2016 Florida election ballot included a measure about the legalization of physician-prescribed marijuana.
The approval of the law for Floridians means that patients who qualify will be able to receive up to a 210-day supply at a time, which equals to six 35-day doses of 2.5 ounces.
Patients under the age of 18 will require a second opinion from a pediatrician and it will only be prescribed to those with terminal illnesses. For the State University System Board, $1.5 million per year will be allocated to conduct research.
What is surprising about this is that DeSantis has very strong Republican values, which traditionally oppose Cannabis legalization. He tweeted on March 18 thanking the Legislature for working with him to ensure that the voice of the voters was heard. DeSantis came into office to face a very divided Florida. The 2018 gubernatorial election ended with very close margins. DeSantis won with a 49.6% against Democrat Andrew Gillum’s 49.2%. The signing of this bill could be DeSantis’ way of making progress with the people.
Seventy percent of voters approved the use of medical marijuana in the 2016 elections, according to the Florida Division of Elections. It was a very popular ballot measure at the time, but it was contested in the legislature, under former Governor Rick Scott. Even though it was approved, it took the Legislature nearly two years to put it into action.
The fact that this was the first law that DeSantis signed is symbolic of what DeSantis’ government could be like. His efforts show that he wants the voices of the people heard regardless of party affiliation.
The Legislature approved the law for non-smoking forms, so anything in the range of oils, ointments and the people complained because the most known way, smokables, was still prohibited.
For Florida, this new amendment means that law enforcement authorities need to come up with ways to ensure the safety of the rest of the people.
A big concern is people who drive under the influence and use the medical marijuana card as a defense. Yes it can be under someone’s possession but as with alcohol and different prescription pills it does not exempt said person from the law.
There is, currently, no threshold to determine whether a person is impaired or not, unlike with alcohol. When stopped by a police officer, the officer must look for clues and patterns of behavior to determine whether or not someone is under the influence. This a problem for other people on the road and for those who have consumed and it is still in their system but they are no longer impaired. There is too much room for interpretation from the law enforcement personnel.
The use of medical cannabis has gained traction and will continue to do so. As it becomes more commonly accepted by politicians in both ends of the political spectrum, more people will come to terms with it. A bill like this will bring benefits to people with illnesses that do not respond to traditional treatments, it will help us advance our laws and it helps to show that there is more common ground between both ends of the spectrum that we used to think.
Even President Trump said in 2016 that states should be allowed to experiment with legalization. While on the federal level there is still a lot of ground to cover, Republicans can support marijuana by advocating for state’s rights. This is a politically safer way to show support and may be exactly what Governor DeSantis is doing.
Even though DeSantis is not a candidate for the presidential election, he still represents his party and therefore President Trump. In a key swing state like Florida, the Republican party needs all the support it can get if it expects a win in 2020.
Ana Mejia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org