The war of attrition between advocates for and opponents against medical marijuana in Florida entered another chapter this week, after the Florida Police Chiefs Association put out a media release on the dangers of medical weed legalization.
In the statement, the FPCA cited studies and stats showing how the number of automobile accidents and ER visits in Colorado have gone up, and drawing a direct correlation to the legalization of medical marijuana in that state.
This, United For Care says, is all false. And this, issued a media release of their own.
Last April, the FPCA aunched a staunch anti-Amendment 2 campaign called "Don't Let Florida Go to Pot," to derail and end the run to get medical marijuana legalized in Florida. They also created an off-shoot group called Drug Free Florida, and have gotten heavy hitting donors to join their anti-weed crusade.
Their biggest message has been how Amendment 2 is fraught with legal loopholes that would lead to all-out legalization of marijuana throughout the state.
"A vote for Amendment 2 is a vote for legalizing marijuana forever in the state of Florida," Florida Sheriffs Association president Sheriff Grady Judd says in a video the group released in May.
This claim was debunked by United For Care when New Times asked for a response to those constant claims.
"If there was any doubt, the Florida Supreme Court has already ruled that the amendment will only be used in cases of debilitating illness," United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara told New Times. "The purpose of the amendment is to allow the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician."
This latest FPCA claim now comes with stats. But, United For Care says those stats are misleading.
For example, the FPCA release says that studies show that marijuana use and crime are highly related.
United For Care counters this claim, saying that studies that show a connection to marijuana and crime are "extraordinarily misleading."
"Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the United States, and as such it can be highly related to every activity under the sun," United For Care's release says. "There are no studies whatsoever establishing that marijuana use directly leads to criminal activity."
Moreover, United For Care cites a peer-reviewed study from the University of Texas that analyzed two decades of FBI data to conclude that medical marijuana laws don't add to the crime rate whatsoever. In fact, the study says the opposite is true. Medical marijuana "may be related to reductions in rates of homicides and assault."
Another claim FPCA makes in their release is a study showing marijuana having a bad impact on businesses in an area where weed is prominent.
United For Care did some digging, and found the study cited is over 20 years old, and that it fails to alcohol use among employees in their study,
As for the raise in ER visits due to marijuana, United For Care says that those stats are incomplete because it's a blanket statement without a proper time frame.
"One hundred twenty ER visits per month, per year or per decade?" United For Care says. "In order to put this in perspective, though, according to the CDC's 2010 figures, "headaches - pain in the head" accounted for 3,100 ER visits per 100,000 people in the U.S. that year."
United For Care also debunks the FPCA's biggest claim -- the one about auto accident deaths being connected to weed.
"It has long been established that testing positive for marijuana does not prove driver impairment at the time of an accident," United for Care says.
Indeed, a recent study published in the Journal of Law and Economics using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System for the years 1990-2010 shows that traffic fatalities showed no increase in states where medical marijuana has been approved. In fact, the study shows that accidents fell by 8-10% in the first full year of legalization.
Still, no doubt the FPCA will continue to put the full-court press on voters on the fence about the legalization of medical marijuana. Even with a recent study showing that Floridians favor it by a 9-1 margin.
The biggest dogs in the fight appear to be those in power. Just this month, the FPCA endorsed Attorney General Pam Bondi for re-election.
Bondi, you may recall, was the first to bring up the loophole claims in the amendment when it was first proposed.
"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 Florida Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of having the amendment be decided by the voters.
That will be happening this November.
Until then, the battle wages on.
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