The state Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday for and against legalizing medical marijuana. Their decision will determine whether a proposed state constitutional amendment will get on the ballot next November.
If the amendment is approved, it would allow doctors to prescribe pot under Florida law. It would also allow registered, regulated marijuana businesses to cultivate, transport, and sell the drug.
Opponents of legalization say the potential consequences outweigh the benefits. Dr. Christopher Lariche, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction matters, says there has been an increased use of the drug in states where the legality has recently changed.
“I look at it more from the level of patients: an increase of addictive disorders, and a decreased price of marijuana and more availability,” Lariche says.
Medical marijuana is still currently illegal under federal law. However, 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing the drug in some form.
Supporters of legalization argue that marijuana has indisputable medical benefits. Dr. Neil Miransky says at this point, any debate is purely driven by politics.
“Can people who have non-medical excuses get medical marijuana cards if we legalize it? Sure,” Miransky says. “Is it worth not having this as a medication available to people who desperately need it and have no other effective alternatives? That’s the political question.”
If the Supreme Court strikes the measure down, efforts to legalize will be dead for at least another year. If the item passes, close to 700,000 additional voter signatures will be required to get the item on the ballot.