Commentary: Voters should support Amendment 2

By Alcee L. Hastings

This November, voters all across the country will cast their ballots and make important decisions about the future of our nation. In Florida, voters will face no shortage of consequential choices. For many of my constituents, our state’s medical marijuana amendment is of the greatest significance.

Florida’s Amendment 2 will allow voters the opportunity to answer a fundamental question about the character of our state and its people. Should patients in Florida have the ability to adhere to their doctor’s recommendations without fearing criminal punishment? Should Florida’s patients have access to the same treatment options that patients of other states already enjoy? Should we, as citizens, treat sick and suffering Floridians with compassion and respect?

These questions all have a clear answer, but compassionate care isn’t just morally admirable, it’s also empirically sound. Many respected scientists, physicians, and patient advocates have been saying it all along, and after the passage of SB 1030, even our state’s government has recognized it — marijuana is medicine. The anecdotal and empirical evidence is overwhelming. Amendment 2 finally ensures that Floridians with debilitating diseases can have access to this important treatment option.

Furthermore, it’s evident from reading Amendment 2’s text that its authors were able to learn from the successes and shortcomings of medical marijuana laws in other states. The amendment establishes the basic guidelines for our state’s medical marijuana program, while allowing the experts at the Florida Department of Health to implement the specific regulations necessary to make certain that our state’s medical marijuana program meets the needs of all Floridians. It’s time for Florida to join the company of 23 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing physicians the freedom to make medical decisions for their patients.

In discussing medical marijuana, I’ve heard the concerns of both patients and parents. I strongly believe that the passage of Amendment 2, followed by a careful and responsible implementation process, would answer both groups’ concerns. I believe that Florida’s medical marijuana program will allow patients affordable access to their medicine without compromising our state’s safety or security.

As citizens, rarely do we have an opportunity to directly improve the quality of life of the most sick and suffering among us. Allowing patients to have the freedom to comply with their doctor’s recommendations should not be a difficult decision.

When my mother was at the end stages of her life, she was in a whole lot of pain. Had medical marijuana been available, I think that her last days would have been more comfortable. I believe anyone in the same situation would want the same for their loved one.

It is my sincere hope that Floridians throughout the entire state will join me in supporting Amendment 2 this November. Sick and dying patients should not have to sacrifice when they are already suffering greatly. They should be afforded the compassionate care they rightly deserve.

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