"A vote for Amendment 2 is a vote for legalizing marijuana forever in the State of Florida," Florida Sheriffs Association President Sheriff Grady Judd said in a vehemently anti-medical marijuana video released last April.
With the video, titled The Devil Is in the Details, Judd's anti-medical weed group No on 2 launched their biggest talking point: that Amendment 2 was fraught with legal loopholes and language that would allow pot to be smoked and sold on the streets willy-nilly. This despite the many attempts by medical marijuana advocates saying otherwise.
Amendment 2 eventually failed to reach the 60 percent needed to pass, and medical marijuana was not made legal in Florida.
But now, with a new bill being introduced to make medical marijuana legal, Judd and some of his fellow Florida sheriffs may be changing their minds.
The bill, which was introduced Monday by Rep. Jeff Brandes, would authorize a doctor to use medicinal marijuana to treat patients afflicted with specific illnesses -- the emphasis being on specific.
On Tuesday, another anti-medical weed sheriff, Bob Gualtieri, told the Tampa Bay Times that he actually supports the new bill, because it promises to be specific on who would get their hands on medical marijuana.
While Judd has not come out and said so publicly, he agrees with Gualtieri. From the Tampa Bay Times:
Gualtieri said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, last year's association president and another vocal Amendment 2 critic, shares his view that the Legislature should take the lead in developing a tightly controlled medical marijuana system.
The key here is that the sheriffs want to see a tightly managed legislation, and one in which loopholes couldn't be exploited in any way.
This is kind of a big deal.
It was Judd's group, after all, that collected millions from big-money donors like Sheldon Adelson to combat pro-medical-marijuana groups like United for Care with videos, billboards, and TV ads, all aimed at pounding into the voting public that Amendment 2 would lead to a Florida free-for-all in pot.
No for 2 even put out an ad suggesting that pot cookies would be the next date rape drug if Amendment 2 passed.
Judd's group also said that Amendment 2 had a so-called "pill mill loophole," equating legal medical marijuana with the 2010 pill-mill craze that crippled Florida. In the Devil in the Details video, Judd claims that pot shops would start opening next to elementary schools and high schools thanks to this loophole.
United for Care refuted all of these claims. But to no avail.
So to have Judd support medical marijuana legalization is a big step forward for advocates.
Brandes' new bill goes out of its way to be very specific.
"Any physical medical condition or treatment for a medical condition which chronically produces the following qualifying symptoms: Cachexia or wasting syndrome; persistent seizures; severe and persistent nausea; severe and persistent muscle spasms; severe and persistent pain," the bill states.
Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that it's a done deal. And United for Care knows it.
"Bottom line, there is an enormous amount of work to be done," United for Care Campaign Manager Ben Pollara said in a statement in response to Judd's change of mind.
"And we are not going to be naive going into this process. We are going to fight like hell to pass not just a medical marijuana bill but the right medical marijuana bill. A medical marijuana bill that works for sick and suffering Floridians."
Pollara sees Judd's change as a good thing, emphasizing that he thinks it's because so many Floridians have come out in support for medical marijuana.
"This has always been about the patients and will always be about the patients," Pollara added. "And nothing is going to happen without you. We are going to do this."
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