Urged on by Florida law enforcement and the head of an organization opposed to the medicinal use of marijuana, Florida's state cabinet unanimously adopted a resolution calling on citizens to oppose a state medical marijuana initiative now in the signature-gathering phase. Supporters of the initiative will need to gather approximately 435,000 signatures over the next four years to get the measure placed on the state's ballot. Thus far, they have collected 10,000 signatures since September. If passed, the initiative will take the form of an amendment to Florida's constitution.
Speaking before the cabinet, Tim Moore, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, told the panel, "We think it's a trick... the camel's head is in the tent's door on the bigger objective of legalizing all drugs not only in Florida but in America."
Betty Sembler, president of the group Save Our Society from Drugs, told the panel, "we cannot stand by and watch the future of our state and our society sabotaged."
And Christy McCampbell, chief of narcotics enforcement for the California attorney general's office told the panel that marijuana use had escalated in California since the passage of 215, that "anyone, of any age, can virtually get marijuana now. It has been legalized... there's no need for a doctor to do an examination or to maintain records."
The Week Online contacted the California attorney general's office for comment on McCampbell's statements. Matt Ross, a spokesman for that office said that as far as an escalation of use or availability, there had been more marijuana seized in the past year in California than in any of the five years prior to 215, which their office believed meant that there was more on the streets. Ross indicated that they believed that the new law had had an effect on those numbers.
Interestingly, no supporters of the proposed initiative were invited to testify and the initiative's sponsors weren't even informed of the hearing and vote. Toni Leeman, chairperson of the Ft. Lauderdale-based Floridians for Medical Rights, spoke to The Week Online. "I didn't even know about the hearing until a reporter called me to get my reaction after the resolution had already passed" she said. "It's ludicrous, of course, but that just underlines the fact that the government of Florida isn't interested in hearing both sides of the issue, they'd rather make these decisions based upon what they think are their political interests. What will surprise them, ultimately, is that we are going to get this passed with the support of the state's voters. The voters, at least, want to know the facts about this issue, and we're going to make sure they get them."
As soon as 45,000 signatures are collected, the initiative will be reviewed by the state's supreme court on two criteria. The first is that the initiative must be constitutional, and the second is that it must only address a single issue. "The text was drafted with a lot of help from the Florida ACLU, and so we're very confident that it will pass the review. What we're focusing on now is getting volunteers to help collect the signatures. We have over 100 so far and the effort is really starting to take off."
DRCNet urges our Florida members to lend a hand with this effort. To volunteer, call Floridians for Medical Rights at (954) 537-3150. And, as always, tell them DRCNet sent you!
5. School Libraries Censor Marijuana Research Book Despite Wide Scientific Praise
"Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence" has been called "The first comprehensive review of marijuana toxicity to appear in more than a decade, (it) is accurate, timely and impressive." And that was by Dr. Louis Lasagna, who authored the 1982 National Academy of Sciences report on marijuana. Other experts have praised the book as well, not the least of whom was law professor John S. Battle, associate director of President Nixon's National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. William F. Buckley called it "a remarkable book... A miracle of intelligent concision."
But despite these rather impressive plaudits, the book was rejected by four separate high school districts in upstate New York this week. The group ReconsiDer, whose membership includes doctors, judges and law enforcement officials, attempted to donate copies of the book to high school libraries in five districts. Two of them, Albany and Rochester, rejected the book outright, according to the Associated Press, two others, Buffalo and Syracuse, are reviewing the book, but are expected to reject it. Only Binghamton accepted the book.
Dave Albert, a spokesman for the Albany School District, told the AP, "It's a tough situation. We certainly don't want to censor anything. But on the other hand we want to make sure that the information is presented accurately in a non-biased way and that both sides are presented." Lynn Zimmer, an associate professor of sociology at Queens College in New York, and co-author of the book, told the AP, "We don't present marijuana as completely harmless, but the information does dispel many of the myths and exaggerations that have been promoted over the years."
A spokesman for The Lindesmith Center, a New York-based drug policy think tank and the publisher of the book, told The Week Online, "In an age where 90% of high school seniors consistently report that it is 'easy' for them to procure marijuana, the banning of this book from high school libraries represents not only an act of censorship, but an unwillingness to deal in facts on this issue at all. The veracity of the information contained in the book is unquestionable, given the reception it's gotten from the scientific community. Is it wise to shelter kids from truth, in service to a drug war ideology? Our kids are confronted with the reality of marijuana every day. Do we really think that hiding the facts from them is going to fool them? What effect do we think that has on their willingness to accept our admonitions about drugs in general?"
ReconsiDer can be found on the web at http://www.reconsider.org/.