Safer Options for Veterans: Smart & Safe Florida

Home » Safer Options for Veterans: Smart & Safe Florida
Garry Stewart
Written By Steve Brandon

May 6, 2024

safer options for veterans - smart & safe florida

The campaign for Florida’s Amendment 3, which aims to legalize adult-use cannabis, is now focusing on attracting military veterans who support marijuana legalization. They started a group called Smart and Safe Florida, and they want veterans to help them convince people to vote for the change. They think marijuana could be a safer option than strong painkillers for veterans with mental health conditions like PTSD. They’re talking to veterans all over Florida to get them on board with their idea.

Safe Solution over Opioids

Feena Bonoan, a veteran, talked to a local news station, WOKV in Jacksonville, about how medical marijuana could help veterans dealing with health conditions with PTSD and chronic pain, and also decrease the need for opioids. Bonoan, who served in the Navy and later retired, developed an ovarian condition during her service. She shared that marijuana helped relieve the pain caused by her condition.

Bonoan shared that there were days, even while using her GI Bill after leaving the military, when she couldn’t attend classes because of the pain. She also mentioned working with the Hawaiian Veterans Cannabis Alliance, where she witnessed other veterans experiencing benefits from using marijuana.

Before using medical marijuana, one veteran was taking around 20 different medications, including opioids, prescribed by the VA for pain management. However, since starting medical marijuana treatment, he no longer needs these medications. Another veteran sees legalization of marijuana as a way to improve his life.

Expanding Access

Florida’s current medical marijuana law allows patients with conditions like PTSD or chronic pain to access cannabis, but advocates argue that broader legalization for adults would make it simpler for patients to get the medicine they need.

Smart and Safe Florida, a campaign for marijuana legalization, didn’t make anyone available for an interview from its veterans coalition. However, Florida Representative Lisa Dunkley, who is a veteran herself, expressed her support for the proposed reform in a statement.

Dunkley supports Amendment 3, which allows adults in Florida to access cannabis as a safer alternative to opioids. However, recent polls show some uncertainty, with 47 percent in favor of the initiative, 35 percent opposed, and 18 percent undecided.

Political Support and Public Opinion

For the constitutional amendment to pass on the ballot, it needs 60 percent of the vote. However, recent surveys indicate that support is below this threshold. One survey found that 56 percent of Florida registered voters back the cannabis proposal. This follows the state Supreme Court’s approval of the initiative for the ballot after rejecting a challenge from the attorney general.

Polling on marijuana legalization has varied over the past year, with some indicating enough support for approval. However, support for ballot questions often decreases closer to Election Day.

Despite the uncertainty, several marijuana companies are backing the reform effort, collectively donating nearly $15 million to the campaign according to recent state filings.

safer options for veterans - smart & safe florida

Counter Arguments

DeSantis, who is also another Florida based veteran, is concerned that legalizing marijuana could lead to a strong smell in Florida’s cities and towns, impacting quality of life. He questions the need for further marijuana laws, pointing to the existing medical cannabis program established in 2016. He believes expanding access to marijuana could harm families and the elderly.

The proposed amendment would allow existing medical cannabis companies to sell marijuana to adults over 21. It doesn’t permit home cultivation and limits possession to three ounces of cannabis, with only five grams of concentrate. However, it lacks equity measures like expungements for those with prior convictions.

If the marijuana legalization initiative passes, analysts predict it could bring in between $195.6 million and $431.3 million annually in new sales tax revenue. This figure could rise if lawmakers choose to add an excise tax similar to those in other legal states.

Here’s what the Smart & Safe Florida initiative entails:

  • Adults 21 and older could buy and possess up to three ounces of cannabis and five grams of concentrates.
  • Medical cannabis dispensaries could expand their operations to serve adults for personal use.
  • The legislature could approve additional entities to sell medical marijuana, but it’s not mandatory.
  • The initiative doesn’t prevent the legislature from passing laws consistent with it, and it doesn’t change federal law to avoid legal challenges.
  • However, there are no provisions for home cultivation, expungement, or social equity.
  • The measure would take effect six months after voter approval.

Take Away

The Smart and Safe Florida campaign is focused on providing a safer option than opioids for veterans with conditions like PTSD and chronic pain through legalized access to medical marijuana. They believe this could greatly improve the lives of veterans across Florida. While there’s notable support for Amendment 3, recent polls show uncertainty about its passing. Governor DeSantis has raised concerns about potential drawbacks, despite analysts predicting significant revenue from legalization. The initiative allows adults to access cannabis and expands medical marijuana operations, but lacks provisions for home cultivation and social equity.

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