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Years in the Making

Legalizing medical marijuana is a tale as old as time


Younger readers of this column might have the wrong idea about this whole situation, and that’s quite understandable. It’s all rather confusing, and that’s probably by design. Some of you may think Florida took up the mantle of medical marijuana only recently, and that last year’s referendum sailed through in solidarity with states like Washington, California and Colorado, all of which made similar moves during the Obama Era. You may think its wide margin of victory represented a rare case of consensus among lawmakers who noted the stark salubrious effect it had on those other states and chose to follow suit, and that 71-29 percent tally was greeted with cheers, tears and the occasional fist-bump.

Nope. NOPE. Quite the opposite. Everyone loves democracy, until they see it in action. In fact, the results were viewed by many lawmakers with the same kind of vague, indescribable terror that the average Jaguars fans felt when their season tickets arrived in the mail–a feeling of “Well, now it’s here; God help us all.” And let’s be clear at the outset, for any readers looking to get the medical marijuana card: You cannot claim PTSD simply for being a Jaguars fan. I know, it’s not fair, but the law is the law, except when it isn’t, but we’ll get to that later.

The reality is, politicians throughout our fine state assiduously blocked all efforts to get medical marijuana on the ballot for two solid decades, using every means at their disposal, short of physical force. Oh, wait, my bad: They used that, too. I watched activists for the old Cannabis Action Network (which should really be the name of someone’s YouTube channel) get rousted and roughed up at least once way back in the ’90s, while trying to get signatures for their petition at a spot near the stadium Downtown. I was on stage, speaking at the SeaWalk Pavilion in Jax Beach while the cops shut down a HempFest event some 15 years ago. These repressed memories are dredged up only to make clear that none of this was supposed to happen, and that may help explain the shoddy, sporadic, slapdash state of its present incarnation.

Medical marijuana referenda was the flavor of the month for several dozen months during the Clinton Years. Most of the states where they’ve passed recently did so back when Biggie and Tupac were both still alive, and those efforts were nullified in 2001 by the Supreme Court, which sided with the Bush Administration in ruling that the federal prerogative transcended the will of the voters. So much for states’ rights, right? Sure. Hundreds of thousands of lives were subsequently ruined, sometimes to lethal effect. The most notable martyr of that movement was the writer Peter McWilliams (1949-2000), author of the seminal book Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Society, which remains essential reading a quarter-century later.

His book was a major factor in launching me on the road to a career in journalism, and I regret having never met him. He choked to death on his own vomit in the bathtub after a four-year fight with lymphoma, because the AIDS medication he was taking made him nauseated. The only thing that helped him keep food down was marijuana and, well, the law is the law. Had he lived, however, he would’ve been sent to prison for pot possession anyway, so maybe he got off lucky. This is what I tell myself to keep from crying when I think of him. Repressed memories, etc.


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