Ocala, Florida — Sheriff’s across Florida are gearing up for a campaign called “Don’t Let Florida Go To Pot,” a campaign against the legalization of marijuana. Voters will decide on the legalization of medical marijuana in November of 2014.
The Florida Sheriff’s Association is heading up the campaign and is looking for huge support from Florida Sheriff’s as well as anti-drug groups.
“Of the 20 states with the highest driver acknowledgement of drugged driving, 15 were states that have passed legislation legalizing marijuana,” The Florida Sheriff’s Association said in a statement. “The Los Angeles and Denver police departments have reported significant increases in crime since marijuana was legalized in their respective states.”
The association says marijuana has a high potential for abuse and presents significant dangers to youths in the state.
“The legalization of marijuana will make this drug more readily available and easier to obtain by teens, as they would not need parental consent to get a ‘physician’s certification’ for marijuana,” the association said. “With no quality or dosage control, there is nothing in place to prevent these storefront marijuana dispensaries from selling to minors.”
Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. It’s legal for those 21 and older, yet highly abused by teens. Alcohol’s addictive qualities are well-documented. Approximately 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence, according to the NIAAA.
For comparison’s sake, cocaine hooks about 20 percent of those who use it, and marijuana about 9 percent. The potential for alcohol, tobacco and cocaine abuse are far greater and more dangerous. And although the likelihood of someone comitting a crime while under the influence of alcohol or cocaine is far greater than that of a person impaired by marijuana, the use of marijuana usually leads to the abuse of harder more potent drugs which are often times mixed with the use of marijuana, the potential for marijuana abuse is there, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Marijuana is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a Schedule 1 substance — the same category as heroin, LSD and Ecstasy — and is illegal in almost all states for recreational use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse said data on marijuana misuse in the United States is limited due to the DEA prohibiting lab testing as well as clinical studies, and even though the potential for abuse is great, marijuana should not be in the same category as heroin, LSD or Ecstasy.
Pasco County, Florida Sheriff Chris Nocco said he doesn’t have an issue with legitimate uses of medical marijuana, but believes, “the real purpose of this amendment is for recreational marijuana to be legalized.”
Many Floridians believe that the government should not have the right to make plants that grow in the wild illegal. In 2013, a judge from Hawaii concluded that no government entity has the right to place bans on plants that are naturally grown in the wild, but said anyone that is caught breaking the law while marijuana impaired should face the same penalties as those who abuse alcohol or other drugs.
Like Sheriff Nocco, Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair told Ocala Post that he does not agree with the legalization of marijuana, except for in the treatment of serious medical diseases.
“Let me be clear when I say legalization…I mean legalizing it for recreational use, without the need for a prescription,” Sheriff Blair said. “If there is a genuine medical need for marijuana, I am all for that…if it is medically necessary, prescribed by a doctor to treat a serious medical disease and closely monitored. But to completely legalize marijuana for recreational use would open the door to a lot of other issues.”
Sheriff Blair said, “In my 37 years of law enforcement experience, I have seen marijuana become a gateway drug. This is how it starts…when marijuana is no longer strong enough, a user will find something stronger. There is no denying the facts. I have seen it with my own eyes and drug rehabilitation centers deal with it on a daily basis.”
Sheriff Blair added, “Again I will say, medical use of marijuana for serious medical diseases is not what I have a problem with if it is proven to help with illnesses such as cancer, but who’s to say the same that has happened with prescription pills will not happen with marijuana. Who’s to say the doctor won’t prescribe it to every person that walks into his or her doctors office just to make a buck. Florida has had a huge problem with “Pill Mills,” we don’t need the same problems with marijuana. It is a real issue, and citizens should be concerned that marijuana could end up in the hands of their child. Moreover, the proposed constitutional amendment would exempt a prescribing physician from any liability for abuse in writing prescription for medical marijuana.”
According to Colorado authorities, since the legalization of marijuana, there have been many different issues that law enforcement has had to deal with. Officials say the issues namely involve kids getting their hands on their parents marijuana, “stoned driving” and drug dealers looking to buy and sell.
School officials have reported issues with teens bringing marijuana to school in an attempt to sell it.
“We have seen a sharp rise in drug-related disciplinary actions which, anecdotally, from credible sources, is being attributed to the changing social norms surrounding marijuana,” Janelle Krueger said. Krueger is the program manager for Expelled and At-Risk Student Services for the Colorado Department of Education and also a longtime adviser to the Colorado Association of School Resource Officers.
Marijuana that parents or other adults might have kept hidden in the past may now be left in the open, where it is easier for kids to dip into it to sell, use, or in some cases, simply to show off, said school officials and law enforcement.
Authorities said there have also been cases where small children have ingested large amounts of un-burnt marijuana.
Colorado State Police told Ocala Post that the state has had a significant increase in “stoned driving” accidents. As a result, the state will begin to keep tallies on “stoned driving” as it does with DUI’s.
Denver Police said, “Because of the new law, we are facing new problems. We are now dealing with drug dealers that are obtaining marijuana to resell it, as well as an increase in money laundering directly linked to individuals using the new marijuana law to do it.”
DEA officials told Ocala Post that California has had an issue with “Marijuana Mills” popping up all over the state, and it has only been legalized in certain parts of California, it is a huge issue that we fight everyday they said. The DEA public affairs office also told Ocala Post that because of the new laws in Colorado, they are now dealing with the infiltration of Columbian drug lords into Denver trying to operate marijuana businesses by manipulating the new marijuana laws.
Sheriff Blair said, “There are loopholes in the marijuana constitutional amendment that need to be amended. Otherwise, law enforcement as well as law abiding citizens are going to be forced to deal with a lot of issues involving the misuse and illegal distribution of marijuana.”
All officials that Ocala Post spoke with also agreed on one specific issue, the issue revolving around the revenue that the sale of marijuana generates.
Officials said, “For citizens to say marijuana should be legalized for income purposes is reckless, citizens should be more concerned with public safety and the safety of their children.”