Florida Medical Marijuana's Biggest Opponents and Threats

Florida seems to be well on its way to getting medical marijuana legalized. Voters this November are going to be able to decide on their own whether weed should be made legal for folks with debilitating diseases, and a bill that would decriminalize the use of a strain of medical marijuana for kids with severe epilepsy has recently passed a Senate committee.

On top of that, polls consistently show that the majority of Floridians support the legalization of medical marijuana. Some polls say that up to 70 percent are cool with medical weed.

So, this should be as automatic as Ray Allen at the free-throw line. All signs point to Florida joining the likes of Colorado and Washington and getting with the times. Right? Right?


So-called Drug Warriors are already on the warpath to soak their feet in the soft-serve ice-cream machine and ruin everything. And make no mistake, these people are committed, they have money, and most of all, they pounce on the narratives that The Pot is nothing but an evil, vile weed that'll turn the entire state into Cheech and Chong zombies.

Here now are five people who could derail medical marijuana:

1. Kevin Sabet He's worked under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama in the Office of National Drug Control Policy and goes around touting drug reform. He's the modern-day version of a Prohibitionist. Sabet is Public Enemy Number One when it comes to legalizing marijuana in any way. And while he's known nationally and has taken his fight to places like Colorado, he's parked right in our own backyard as the director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida.

Through his group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (or, Project SAM), Sabet, who calls himself the "quarterback" of a new antidrug movement, has become an expert at making it sound like marijuana is Satan's Herb. Through clever semantics and an aggressive approach, Sabet's M.O. has been to be intellectually dishonest about pot by touting nonsense such as today's weed is more potent than the weed your parents smoked in the '50s and '60s or that weed rots your brain.

He also uses buzzwords and scare tactics, so as to not sound like an evil conservative, by calling medical marijuana and dispensary industries "the new big tobacco."

And Sabet has already thrown himself into the fight in Florida, going after the recent bipartisan bill that would legalize a light-strain medical marijuana known as Charlotte's Web that would help certain children who suffer with epilepsy. In a "fact sheet" Sabet put out, he claims that these children don't need Charlotte's Web because they're able to get an FDA-approved drug called Epidiolex.

2. Rick Scott Like most things that seem unpopular to the masses but are a sticking point with his own base, Rick Scott has been wishy-washy with his attitude toward medical marijuana. But make no mistake, if the Lizard King gets reelected as governor of Florida, expect him to water down and veto and basically destroy any significant medical marijuana bill that comes to his desk.

Even with the Charlotte's Web bill -- which has already passed a Senate panel -- Scott has been noncommittal, having his office release statements like, "The FDA is currently evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the medication. The Governor is hopeful that families will get relief from the impacts of these serious illnesses in the safest possible way."

And when it comes to the medical marijuana vote on November, Scott has already made it clear he wants no part of it in Florida. Through the old and tired argument that weed is like booze and other drugs, back in January Scott said he would not endorse it.

"I have a great deal of empathy for people battling difficult diseases, and I understand arguments in favor of this initiative. But, having seen the terrible effects of alcohol and drug abuse firsthand, I cannot endorse sending Florida down this path, and I would personally vote against it."

3. Pam Bondi While Florida's attorney general wants kids to be able to walk into a Walmart and buy themselves an assault rifle, people using medical marijuana to alleviate debilitating and crippling diseases is where she draws the line. When the initiative to put medical marijuana on the voting ballot was being proposed, there was no bigger and louder opponent than Bondi.

When the initiative's wording was in question and went to the state's Supreme Court, Bondi went strong to the hoop to kill it before the justices could even get a chance to breathe. Bondi accused the group responsible for the initiative, People United for Medical Marijuana, of "hiding the ball." She basically said that if the amendment is passed, doctors will just give away free pot to anyone with the sniffles willy-nilly.

"Any physician could approve marijuana for seemingly any reason to seemingly any person [of any age] -- including those without any 'debilitating disease,'" she said in a letter written to the Florida Supreme Court. "So long as a physician held the opinion that the drug use 'would likely outweigh' the risks, Florida would be powerless to stop it."

The Supreme Court eventually OK'd the initiative, and the people of Florida will be the ones deciding on medical marijuana in November. But you can bet Bondi will be waiting in the weeds (pun!) between now and then, waiting to say more things about how The Pot is bad.

4. Will Weatherford Among those who joined Bondi in the fight against The Evil Spread of Pot was Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford. The speaker basically echoed Bondi's assertion that, should medical marijuana be legalized, it would open the door for people who didn't even have anything wrong with them to get a prescription. Not only is Weatherford opposed to medical marijuana; he can't even come up with an original thought.

Senate President and fellow Republican Don Gaetz had joined Weatherford at the time, saying medical marijuana was of The Fruits From The Devil's Loins.

Yet Gaetz recently came around on the issue and cosponsored the Charlotte's Web bill.

Weatherford, meanwhile, is unmoved.

5. Save Our Society From Drugs You've probably never heard of the SOSFD, but they're out there, fighting the bad fight. And their founders are from Florida. Because, of course.

When Colorado first proposed Amendment 64, the bill that eventually became the law that legalized small amounts of pot for recreational use in that state, SOSFD went hard to the hole, donating loads of money to the opposition and establishing itself as a group that will do what it has to do to eliminate the legalization of weed of any kind.

Back when United for Care was doing its thing to get medical marijuana on the Florida ballot, SOSFD's deputy director, Amy Ronshausen said that "crude marijuana does not meet the standards of modern medicine."

Ronshausen also got on the ERRBODY GON GET WEEEED EVEN THE BABIES bandwagon led by Pam Bondi when she said that "anybody would be able to get [medical marijuana] of any age -- there's not an age restriction on it -- for any condition that their physician wanted to give it to them for."

St. Petersburg residents, the grandparently-named Mel and Betty Sembler, started SOSFD to spread the narrative that medical marijuana is not only unconstitutional, but it also has no benefits. Because old people love the Constitution but hate science and facts.

Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph. Follow Chris Joseph on Twitter

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