Nicole Montero/Staff Writer
University law students have teamed up with the Students for Sensible Drug Policy group to raise awareness around campus and register students for the medical marijuana initiative that is up for vote on the November ballot.
Christopher Fleitas, a third-year FIU law student and executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, thinks that engaging students will make all the difference.
“It’s always important for people to be aware of what’s going on because they’re in a position where they can make a positive impact,” Fleitas said. “Each vote counts and you can pretty much carve out your destiny by going to the polling place.”
Fleitas has first-hand experience with medical marijuana patients and saw the negative effects that prohibition raised. According to him, the only options available to patients are killing them.
“There are a whole bunch of different illnesses right now — like AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis and Lou Gehrig’s disease,” he said. “All they get is opiates and they don’t have the opportunity to choose something less harmful because of the legal landscape of the state.”
Amendment 2, the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, would guarantee that medical use of marijuana by qualifying patient or caregiver would not be subject to criminal or civil liability.
The measure would also guarantee that licensed physicians would not be subject to criminalization for issuing medical marijuana to a person diagnosed with a “debilitating medical condition” under state law.
United for Care, a campaign run by People United for Medical Marijuana, is the main advocate for the bill to pass.
“I’ve talked to so many people who have told me that this makes a huge difference in alleviating their distress,” said Maurizio Passariello, communications director for United for Care. “I cannot understand why, as a society, we haven’t come together and allowed this.”
Like Fleitas, Passariello cannot understand why physicians are allowed to prescribe radiation and opiates rather than making available a natural plant.
The United for Care bus tour came to the University on Oct. 9 for an open format town hall discussion and rally about medical marijuana and Amendment 2.
Rosemary Maseri, a woman who suffers from multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and migraines attended the discussion. According to Passariello, she is suffering and is constantly in pain.
“She’s not using medical marijuana now because she’s afraid of the consequences,” he said. “Why are we not letting people like that have access to this? This bill is our chance to prove that Florida can do this.”
Some students around campus said they wanted the bill to pass while others dissented.
Ana Tomas, junior hospitality and management major, is one of them.
“The amendment doesn’t really give specifics so we can’t let this bill pass because we don’t know what the regulations will be,” she said.
One of Tomas’ fears is that the regulations will allow children and teens to legally purchase marijuana without the parents’ consent, as the amendment does not specify age.
“The amendment also has a drug dealer loophole because these so-called caregivers, the people who are assigned to get the drug for the ‘debilitating’ patient, don’t need any medical training,” she said. “So, basically, they can be felons.”
Emilio Morra, senior information technology major, is also opposed to the bill. He believes that the drug alters your state of being and, like Tomas, thinks that the amendment has too many loopholes.
“The reality is that the amendment doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription to get the pot,” he said.
Morra also thinks the bill is too broad and that doctors would prescribe the drug for any condition.
“Anyone who wants pot will get it because there’s absolutely no way to moderate it,” he said. “It will be chaotic and people who really need it could abuse it and give it to those who don’t.”
The bill will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment. If the bill passes, the Florida Department of Health would be responsible for regulating it.