Florida should give thought to medical marijuana rules

DAYTONA BEACH NJ, by Jim Manfre, sheriff of Flagler County - As most readers are probably aware, earlier this year 63 of my fellow Florida sheriffs came out publicly against the medical marijuana amendment on the ballot this November. I was not among them.

Don’t get me wrong. I have concerns about the amendment as well, but I am still looking closely at the issue before I decide whether I will oppose or support its passage.

One of the reasons I did not reflexively oppose Amendment 2 like most of my colleagues is this: I watched my mother suffer with cancer, and have often wondered if it could have helped ease her suffering while she was undergoing treatment.

As a son, of course, I would have wanted my mother to have access to any and every available treatment that could have potentially alleviated her pain during that time. But as a sheriff and former prosecutor, I also have concerns about the public policy and public safety implications of such a law. And regardless of how I ultimately decide to vote on Amendment 2, if the voters of Florida pass it into law, I want to make sure that it is implemented in the best possible way for the state that I love and serve.

It is for all of those reasons that I recently agreed to serve on the “Blue Ribbon Commission” created by the new advocacy organization, Florida for Care. I strongly believe that by working with this group to proactively develop a framework for the implementation of Amendment 2, I — and the community I was elected to serve and protect — can take more comfort in medical marijuana coming to our state, whether we voted for or against the amendment.

I intend to use my platform as a member of this commission to try to ensure that the issues most important to protecting the safety of Flagler County are properly addressed, should Amendment 2 become law.

My focus will be on making sure medical marijuana is used only by those who legitimately need it, that medical marijuana businesses are well-regulated and run by legitimate businessmen and women, that laws protecting against driving under the influence of drugs are strictly enforced, and that medical marijuana remains medical and does not fall into the hands of our children.

The commissioners who have been chosen to serve with me are all extremely serious individuals, from a diversity of professional and public policy experience. I am proud to serve with this group, and believe that by working together diligently we can come up with a set of regulatory and legislative proposals that Florida can adopt to implement this law in the right way.

Since California passed a medical marijuana law in 1996, 22 other states and the District of Columbia have also passed similar laws.

If Florida becomes the 24th medical marijuana state, I want it to be the “gold standard” for a tightly controlled and regulated law that provides safe access to people like my mother in a free-market environment that could potentially benefit our still recovering economy.

One way or the other, I will be casting a vote on Amendment 2 this fall. Ultimately, I may decide to keep my vote between me and the ballot box and not take a public position on this issue.

No matter what my choice may be, I believe that by serving on this commission I will be able to help shape a piece of public policy that is reflective of my concerns and that of many Floridians.

Manfre is sheriff of Flagler County.

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