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Another voter mandate goes up in smoke
May 11, 2017

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For the second time in as many years, the people we send to Tallahassee to represent us have not only ignored, but rode roughshod, over a voter mandate.

After voters overwhelmingly approved a water and land conservation initiative in 2014, the House and Senate in '15 evaded the intent of the 4.2 million Floridians who voted to require that a portion of fees already being collected by the state be used to "acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands."

Instead of earmarking that money as intended by the 75 percent majority that voted "yes" to the constitutional amendment, the "water quality" pols we entrust to 1) represent the people who elected them and 2) adhere to the state's bedrock governing document, its constitution, brought forth a measure to allocate just a portion of that - for "operating and regulatory" expenses for existing agencies.

This year, state reps concluded the 2017 legislative session with zip-nadda-nothing accomplished in way of an implementation plan for medical marijuana.

Unless one counts wrangling over the number of operator licences and dispensary caps, and deciding how to make filling prescriptions as difficult as possible for those in need counts as answering the mandate of the 6.5 million voters who carved the legalization of medical marijuana into our state constitution last November.

A couple things.

As of deadline, a number of officials in both houses were calling for a special session as were medical marijuana proponents, including attorney John Morgan, who led the charge for legalization in both 2014, when it narrowly failed to obtain the needed 60 percent of the vote, and 2016 when it garnered an overwhelming 71 percent.

That's good. If you don't complete work that your bosses told you should be a top priority, you shouldn't be able to run on home to sit by the pool and sip iced tea.

It's also good because otherwise state Department of Health staffers -who are not accountable to the voters - have until July 3 to formulate the plan those we elected couldn't draft.

A special session, by all means.

However, given the restrictions already imbedded into bills passed by the House and the Senate, and given that each would have prohibited the issuance of prescriptions for medical marijuana in smokeable form, any compromise legislation is likely to wind up in court. As is any Health Department plan that bans use of the drug in its most prescribed form, which is legal in 24 of the 29 states where medical marijuana has been approved.

"If they pass it without smoke, I'll sue for that. And win," Mr. Morgan said in an 8-minute video posted to his Facebook page after the legislative debacle.

"Everyone understood smoke would be allowed," he added.

Indeed.

We could reiterate the reasons any implementation plan should prioritize the patients to which medical marijuana would be prescribed - those with "cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions."

But Mr. Morgan said it so well, pointing out that medical marijuana is an alternative to ... "legal pharmaceuticals that hurt us, hook us, kill us. This was the best alternative..."

He also was dead on in his plea to our elected officials:

"They trusted you. And with 71 percent of the vote, there's no doubt of the will of the people...

"Put people before profits," he implored.

We agree. Pull politics from this "drug debate." Call the special session. And pass a plan that won't make voters go to court to force the amendment they approved.

Don't let another voter mandate - and our tax dollars - go up in smoke because you refuse to do the job you were elected to do.

-Breeze editorial

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