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Florida Doctors' Association Opposes Medical Marijuana Amendment

medical marijuana
Mark via Flickr

A longtime opponent of medical marijuana, the Florida Medical Association this week has officially come out against a proposed constitutional amendment voters will consider in November. The lobby representing more than 20,000 physicians is raising concerns over Amendment Two’s breadth.

Meanwhile, a political committee called People United for Medical Marijuana has raised nearly $3.9 million in contributions. And recent public opinion polls show overwhelming public support for medical cannabis. But Tampa OB-GYN Dr. Madelyn Butler says the public is “misinformed” about medical marijuana.

“This whole medical marijuana to me is basically legalization of marijuana. It’s a technicality,” she says, “‘cause everybody’s gonna get recommendations. Everybody’s going to be diagnosed with anxiety, chronic pain. You know, there are so many loopholes for this that, to me, it’s basically one and the same.”

Butler represents the Florida Medical Association. Its members number less than 30 percent of all medical doctors and osteopaths in the state. She says Amendment Two is problematic because it allows physicians to certify patients for any condition if they believe marijuana’s benefits would outweigh the risks. State law says physicians include foot doctors and dentists. And Butler says that means the drug could become readily available to almost anyone.

But United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara says the health department or the Legislature could limit certifiers to M.D.s and D.O.s.

“You know, I don’t think the FMA represents all the doctors in the state, and they certainly don’t represent the doctors and the nurses who I talk to on a regular basis who are for this and who would like medical marijuana as another tool in their toolbox of treatment options for their patients,” Pollara says.

Then again, Butler says allowing medical marijuana would be a step backward for a state that has made strides against pill mills, the clinics where patients would often receive a diagnosis and fill prescriptions for addictive opioids in the same building.

She says, “We believe that if this amendment passes, there are going to be pot shops that are more numerous that McDonald’s and they’re going to be everywhere.”

Pollara counters that, compared to how pill mills dispense meds, there’d be more steps before a patient could receive medical marijuana: After a physician certifies someone, the Department of Health would have to send him an ID card before he could purchase cannabis.

“One of the reasons for the pill mill epidemic was that it was such an easy process,” he says.

But Dr. Butler says Florida Medical Association members cannot condone something that has been shown to cause lung cancer when smoked. And she says the scientific literature doesn’t prove marijuana is more effective than other drugs.