The efforts to legalize marijuana in Florida got a boost last week at a meeting of the Dolphin Democrats when Tim Canova, who is challenging U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the Democratic primary, spoke about the platforms of his campaign.
Canova, 55, who works as a law professor, started his presentation to the group by condemning the influence of big money in political campaigns. He also made it clear that he is adamantly against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Then, in an outtake interview at the conclusion of his speech, Canova agreed to an interview where he answered questions and discussed his position on medical marijuana. He also addressed LGBT rights and difficulties he felt he would face challenging Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee.
“I’m fully supportive of medical marijuana,” Canova said. “I was two years ago in 2014 as well.”
In 2014, Florida held a referendum in an attempt to join other states making marijuana legal in the Sunshine State. That effort, called Amendment 2 on the ballot saw 57% of Floridians Vote yes but failed to pass by a narrow margin. since it required 60% of the vote to be approved..
When the measure failed, Florida Marijuana Info. org (FMI), a website devoted to legalize pot, predicted that because of the high percentage of votes in favor of Amendment 2, it was " likely the state legislature will again take up the issue of medical cannabis during the next session, and activists could choose to create another medical cannabis ballot initiative. The site also said that it was "likely the legislature would introduce a broader medical cannabis bill with language more restrictive and limited than the language of Amendment 2.
Florida Governor Rick Scott must have seen the handwriting on the wall because he recently signed an expansion of the state’s medical pot bill (HB 307), allowing access to marijuana for patients determined to have terminal conditions and likely to die within a year. Canova, however, disagreed with Scott’s regulations.
“I don’t think it should be that difficult,” Canova said. “I have seen the way medical marijuana has played out in other states. They don’t confine it to just terminal patients. It relieves a lot of pain and a lot of different ailments. The medical science on this is very clear. It is not a harmful drug compared to a lot of prescription drugs that have very serious side effects.”
FMI, discussing the future of cannabis in the state has made it clear that it is only a matter of time until Florida follows in the footsteps of
"The legalization of medical cannabis within the State of Florida is inevitable, as the November election showed that most voters support an Amendment 2-style legalized medical cannabis system,. It just barely missed the 60% required to amend the state Constitution. At least until the next elections, it seems it will again be up to the state legislature to enact the will of the people. Given the problems plaguing the low-THC medical cannabis program, the legislature may very well need to go back and readdress the issue of medical cannabis. The results of recreational legalization initiatives in Oregon, Alaska, and 3 cities in Maine are not yet available at press time, but with Colorado and Washington passing the first legalization initiatives, and polls showing most Americans favor legalization, many see it as only a matter of time until full legalization is achieved. With Floridians willing to spend millions, and millions voting in favor of medical cannabis, it is clear the battle to legalize medical cannabis in the Sunshine State is far from over."
Canova is the first-ever primary challenger in U.S. House District 23 for Wasserman Schultz, a six-term Congresswoman.
Over the past few months of the 2016 presidential cycle, DNC Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz has been under heavy fire from her own party for favoring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over other candidates in the Democrat primary.
She came under fire again at the end of 2015, when she was specifically accused of lying and not being capable of handling the job as chairwoman.
According to the New York Times:
In a telephone interview, R.T. Rybak, vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Wasserman Schultz, made “flat-out not true” statements about other top party officers and questioned her political skills saying he had “serious questions” about her suitability for the job.
“I am seriously questioning whether she has the capacity to do what has to be done,” said Rybak, adding, "that’s why I’m doing what I wanted not to do for a long time, which is go public with my serious questions of whether she can lead this party.”
In November 2016, medical marijuana will appear on Florida voters’ ballots once again., Despite bipartisan support across the state, Florida may not join the 23 other states and Washington, D.C. that have already legalized medical marijuana, due in large part to the efforts of Wasserman Schultz.
“Almost 58 percent of Florida voters supported medical marijuana and I’d be surprised if that many support her,” Bill Piper, national affairs director with the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance, told Politico in 2015.
“That should be a lesson for Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Florida voters like this policy more than her. And we’ll make sure people know her position.”
Most telling of the 'odiferous nature' of politics is why Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s is so heavily against legalizing marijuana in Florida even when it is conclusive that cannabis alleviates pain and suffering for medical patients. Wasserman-Shultz has been conclusively linked to significant campaign contributions from the alcohol industry. In the past year she has received $15,000 from Southern Wine & Spirits and $10,000 from the National Beer Wholesalers Association. According to news reports, she has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from these organizations over her political career, including the Wine & Spirits wholesalers of America.
“I just don’t think we should legalize more mind-altering substances if we want to make it less likely that people travel down the path toward using drugs,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said in a recent interview with New York Times Magazine.
She used the well-worn talking point used by marijuana opponents that cannabis is a "gateway drug."
“We have had a resurgence of drug use instead of a decline. There is a huge heroin epidemic," she said.”
According to Observer: News and Politics, "The gateway drug myth has long since been debunked. In 1999 a report commissioned by Congress found “there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are casually linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” The gateway drug argument is also inapplicable to medical marijuana, as it simply assumes it will lead to recreational legalization."
The Observer further noted that in the same New York Times interview, when pressed on the issue as to why prescribing opiates weren't illegal in Florida since they are often attributed to heroin addiction. Ms. Wasserman Schultz dismissed the question, and said “there is a difference between opiates and marijuana.”
So based on her history with the popular marijuana initiative, her general unpopularity with her own party and her reliance on special interest money, it is likely that Professor Canova will be a formidable opponent for Wasserman Shultz in the upcoming November elections.
His candidacy also appears to take Florida one step closer to joining other states that have recognized voters support the use of cannabis as a viable medical treatment.