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Not so long ago, I was confidently, arrogantly perhaps, telling anyone who would listen that yes, of course the pro-medical marijuana Amendment 2 would pass, easily at that. Just look at the polling, I would say — 65, 70, even 80 percent approval, consistently above the 60-percent threshold to be enshrined in the Florida Constitution. Look at the national trends, the overarching movement toward decriminalization and a somewhat saner drug policy. Look at the common sense of it: Pot is no more dangerous than the liquor you can find at stores all over town, and is a far sight safer than many of the painkillers your doctor can legally prescribe. Why shouldn’t it be legally available, especially under a doctor’s supervision? There’s simply no argument that holds up to logical scrutiny.
Of course Amendment 2 was going to pass.
Perhaps I spoke too soon. The pro-2 poll numbers have dipped below 60 percent, some inching closer to 50 percent, buried in a well-financed avalanche of scaremongering and hyperbole and out-and-out bullshit from our state’s worryworts and prudes and professional scolds and moral betters and beneficiaries of a robust police state, all of whom just know that medical marijuana will lead ipso facto to the sky falling and all of our teenagers becoming dope fiends and raping each other (seriously, a No on 2 ad asked: “Will the new face of ‘date rape’ look like a [marijuana] cookie?”) and, as Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd warned earlier this year, stoned losers throwing their babies off walls. (Actual, not-made-up-at-all quote: “I see the guy that’s up all night with a baby that’s screaming, so he smokes him a blunt and a half and he thinks that’ll help and ends up bouncing the baby off the walls.”)
It’s worth taking a moment to look at some of the folks behind these ads. Start with Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate and GOP funder who shelled out $4 million to Drug Free Florida — a state 2,000 miles away from his home turf — while he just so happens to be lobbying our state’s anti-pot lawmakers to expand casino gambling (a vice that actually has deleterious societal impacts, by the way). Then go to Mel Sembler, the co-founder of Drug Free Florida, which is campaigning against Amendment 2. Before that Sembler founded a “tough love” drug rehab program for kids called Straight Inc., which was shut down after accusations of physical and sexual abuse and false imprisonment and plagued by lawsuits. Then consider Carlton Turner, Ronald Reagan’s drug czar, the progenitor of the Just Say No campaign and now Drug Free Florida’s chairman, who back in 1986 claimed that “Marijuana leads to homosexuality,” and more recently said that pot has “more cancer-causing compounds than cigarettes.”
You shouldn’t vote for Amendment 2 because its chief opponents comprise a rogue’s gallery of anachronistic drug warriors, or because they’re espousing asinine arguments that don’t deserve to win. You should vote for Amendment 2 because it’s the right thing to do, because it will help people who need help, because we’ve empowered the state to prosecute and imprison people for nonviolent drug offenses for far too long, and because, yes, this is a step toward decriminalization and legalization, and that’s OK.