Florida petition circulating for medical marijuana
Ryan Theis
October 1997

Since Sept. 8, three activists have made their way to 22 county seats in a statewide tour to petition for the legal, medical use of marijuana in Florida.

Although they have only $5,000 to carry them to the remaining 45 counties, Glen Allen, Kevin Aplin and Elvy Musikka represent a minute fraction of the support behind this initiative. The four-month tour was organized by the Coalition Advocating Medical Marijuana, whose board members include doctors and lawyers, as well as activists. In addition to widespread grassroots support throughout the state, the Florida Medical Association also announced its support for medical use in a resolution it passed last June (#97-61).

"Doctors have gone to sign at the courthouse, which is a very public statement," Allen said.

The initiative provides for the right to obtain medical marijuana through the certification of a licensed physician. It protects doctors from criminal prosecution, a problem that California encountered when its initiative was passed. It also protects any person from prosecution based on his or her cultivation, transportation, provision or sale of the drug to a certified user.

Although the initiative enumerates many conditions for which marijuana is used medically, such as AIDS, anorexia and glaucoma, it leaves prescription open to the professional judgement of the doctor. The physician, it states, can certify a person whose health may benefit from marijuana use in the treatment of any "other specified medical condition, symptom or illness."

In order for it to get on the 1998 ballot, however, it will need 435,000 signatures.

The tour, in addition to volunteers from Gainesville's Cannabis Action Network, has collected over 2,000 signatures so far. Allen said the majority of the signatures will come from hempfests and other large weekend events, which the group will visit between their tabling schedules at county courthouses.

Since the group doesn't need permits to table at courthouses, people opposed to the initiative have had little legal premise to stop them, Allen said.

"There's been a little opposition from the sheriff's departments," he said. "But the First Amendment also applies to us."

The tour comes to Alachua County Courthouse in Gainesville this Oct. 31. But here the petition should receive little opposition, said Tom Miller, who was master of ceremonies at last year's Florida Statewide Hempfest.

"This is a liberal college town surrounded by a conservative element," Miller said. "If a lot of students get a hold of it, the conservative opposition won't matter."

Miller defended his prediction in that local support for pro-legalization issues exceeds any organization against them. Along with the Cannabis Action Network and local participation in the annual hempfest, the Florida Legalization Organization also has strong representation here.

Musikka is one of eight Americans legally allowed to use marijuana as medicine. She uses the drug to ease glaucoma symptoms. In 1995 she was wrongfully arrested at the Gainesville hempfest for possession. She said she would like to file a lawsuit, but she's been busy blanketing the state with petitions.

Volunteers are desperately needed to make this initiative work and to help diminish the workload of those already volunteering, said Allen. A member of the Gainesville CAN, Allen said he hopes the University of Florida will organize a student activist group to back up the local support.

In addition to collecting signatures and donating money, volunteers can send letter to the Constitutional Revision Commission. The more people who express their concern for the issue, the more seriously the commission will look at it, Allen said.

The Gainesville CAN is holding an "All Saints Boogie" at its office, 201 #c SE Depot Avenue, Saturday, November 1 at 4:20 p.m. Bands will include Sense, Yellow Belly Slider, Lifeblood, Space Hippie, Box Elder, and several former members of the KISS Army.

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