The Medical Marijuana Racket

I saw a small sign stuck in the grass near the side of a road where I live in Orlando that I have never seen before. I wrote down the text on the sign so I could remember it. It simply said:

Legal Weed

Office Visit $199

Signs like this were inconceivable until January 3 of this year. That is the day when Florida’s Amendment 2 took effect, “The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative.” Amendment 2 appeared on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment under the title of: Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions. The ballot summary reads:

Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.

Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 2 by a vote of 71.32 to 28.68 percent. Article X, section 29 of the Florida constitution has been amended to allow Floridians access to marijuana for medical use. There are now 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana, plus the District of Columbia.

But all is not well.

According to the text of Amendment 2, a “debilitating medical condition” means

cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.

“Identification card” means “a document issued by the Department that identifies a qualifying patient or a caregiver.”

“Medical use” means “the acquisition, possession, use, delivery, transfer, or administration of an amount of marijuana not in conflict with Department rules.”

“Caregiver” means

a person who is at least twenty-one (21) years old who has agreed to assist with a qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana and has qualified for and obtained a caregiver identification card issued by the Department. The Department may limit the number of qualifying patients a caregiver may assist at one time and the number of caregivers that a qualifying patient may have at one time. Caregivers are prohibited from consuming marijuana obtained for medical use by the qualifying patient.

“Physician” means “a person who is licensed to practice medicine in Florida.” According to the Orlando Sentinel: “More than 630  physicians have been licensed by the state — with dozens in Orlando — to recommend medical cannabis to patients.”

“Physician certification” means

a written document signed by a physician, stating that in the physician’s professional opinion, the patient suffers from a debilitating medical condition, that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for the patient, and for how long the physician recommends the medical use of marijuana for the patient. A physician certification may only be provided after the physician has conducted a physical examination and a full assessment of the medical history of the patient. In order for a physician certification to be issued to a minor, a parent or legal guardian of the minor must consent in writing.

“Qualifying patient” means “a person who has been diagnosed to have a debilitating medical condition, who has a physician certification and a valid qualifying patient identification card.”

All medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) must be registered with the Florida Department of Health.

The Department of Health is tasked with issuing “reasonable regulations necessary for the implementation and enforcement of this section” to ensure “the availability and safe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients.” No later than six months after the effective date of section 29, “the following regulations shall be promulgated”:

  1. Procedures for the issuance and annual renewal of qualifying patient identification cards to people with physician certifications and standards for renewal of such identification cards. Before issuing an identification card to a minor, the Department must receive written consent from the minor’s parent or legal guardian, in addition to the physician certification.
  2. Procedures establishing qualifications and standards for caregivers, including conducting appropriate background checks, and procedures for the issuance and annual renewal of caregiver identification cards.
  3. Procedures for the registration of MMTCs that include procedures for the issuance, renewal, suspension and revocation of registration, and standards to ensure proper security, record keeping, testing, labeling, inspection, and safety.
  4. A regulation that defines the amount of marijuana that could reasonably be presumed to be an adequate supply for qualifying patients’ medical use, based on the best available evidence. This presumption as to quantity may be overcome with evidence of a particular qualifying patient’s appropriate medical use.

The text of the amendment is also very clear that nothing in it “shall affect or repeal laws relating to non-medical use, possession, production, or sale of marijuana” or “authorizes the use of medical marijuana by anyone other than a qualifying patient.”

What a racket.

No one in Florida in pain because he suffers from a “debilitating medical condition” can obtain marijuana to alleviate his pain without jumping through numerous hoops and going to great expense even though he can easily purchase and consume all the Tylenol, aspirin, or alcohol he wants to. Yet, these three substances (especially alcohol) cause many deaths every year while the number of deaths from marijuana every year is still a big fat zero.

So, what’s a libertarian to make of all this?

First of all, some freedom is better than no freedom. Some marijuana freedom is better than no marijuana freedom. Legal medical  marijuana and illegal recreational marijuana is better than illegal medical and recreational marijuana. Legal medical marijuana with regulations and restrictions is better than illegal medical marijuana.

Second, limited federalism is better than no federalism. On the federal level, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act with “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” The Supreme Court case of Gonzales v. Raich (2005) affirmed the power of the federal government under the Constitution’s commerce clause to ban the medical use of marijuana. Yet, 29 states, including Florida, are permitted by the federal government to allow the medical use of marijuana.

Third, any adult should be able obtain marijuana just like he would obtain any other medicine. It shouldn’t matter what his medical condition is. He shouldn’t have to obtain an identification card. He shouldn’t have to be a qualified patient. No physician should need a special license to prescribe marijuana. Patients should be able to chose anyone to be a caregiver. No qualifications and standards for caregivers should be promulgated. No physician certification should have to be issued. No MMTCs should have to be registered. No regulations, reasonable or otherwise, should be issued by the government. The amount of marijuana possessed by a patient should not be limited. No prescription should have to be obtained to purchase marijuana. No physician should have to be seen before one is able to use marijuana for some aliment.

And fourth, the use of marijuana for any reason should be perfectly legal. There should be no laws at any level of government regarding the buying, selling, growing, processing, transporting, manufacturing, advertising, using, possessing, or “trafficking” of marijuana for any reason. There should be no laws at any level of government to prohibit, regulate, restrict, or otherwise control what a man desires to smoke, drink, inject, snort, sniff, inhale, swallow, or otherwise ingest into his mouth, nose, veins, or lungs. There should be no federal or state DEAs, no Office of National Drug Control Policy, no drug schedules, and no Controlled Substances Act. There should be marijuana freedom. That is the libertarian position.

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