There has been a dark cloud of greed and cutthroat underhandedness hovering above the Sunshine State ever since the Florida Medical Association (FMA) voted, once again, this year, to go after the jugular of a proposed constitutional amendment — slated for the November ballot — aimed at legalizing a comprehensive medical marijuana program.
It seems the organization, which is the self-proclaimed voice for more than 20,000 physicians all across the state, will pick up where it left off in 2014 by taking another wild-eyed stand against United For Care’s well-funded Amendment 2 – a proposal aimed at providing hundreds of thousands of seriously ill patients with full strength cannabis products. In a recent press release announcing the group’s opposition to the initiative, FMA CEO Tim Stapleton said, “There is nothing medical about this proposal, and the lack of scientific evidence that pot is helpful in treating medical conditions is far from inclusive.”
However, while the FMA’s rotten opinion of cannabis medicine is certainly no rarity in the grand scheme of reform combat, what is interesting is that it appears the organization’s stiff-collared allegiance to the prohibitionary standard comes from the fat wallet influence of the major pharmaceutical companies. It was pointed out in a recent article from the Miami New Times that the FMA’s Orlando conference, which was held this year at Disney World, was paid for entirely by sponsorship dollars provided by PhRMA — one of the industry’s leading trade organizations charged with protecting the interest of the drug companies.
It is no secret that the pharmaceutical industry is prepared to go to battle, whatever the cost, to prevent marijuana from being realized as an effective treatment for a variety of ailments. And the pill-pushers may just have a right to be scared.
Some of the latest studies have shown that prescriptions for drugs used in the treatment of conditions ranging from anxiety to pain are dropping, like the dead, in states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. One particular study, which was published last month in Health Affairs, shows a definitive link between the legalization of medical cannabis and the reduction of Medicare claims for opioid painkillers and antidepressants. Researchers say this link can be established because claims for medications such as blood thinners, for which marijuana is not considered an alternative treatment, have not changed in those states with legal weed on the books.
It is for this reason that Big Pharma continues to invest in campaigns and bribe anyone willing to listen with millions of dollars every year in hopes of sabotaging the movement to legalize the leaf. In fact, reports indicate that PhRMA spent nearly $18 million in 2013 lobbying against marijuana. And during the 2012 election, drug companies greased the palms of federal politicians and special committees to the tune of nearly $22 million.
One thing is certain – big money is being spent to prevent United for Care’s Amendment 2 from seeing the light of day. Last week, Jenkins Barnett, the 59-year-old heiress to Florida’s Publix supermarket chain, reportedly donated $800,000 to Drug Free Florida, an influential group hoping to kill the possibility of medical marijuana in the upcoming election. But this is not the first time Barnett has contributed to the campaign – shelling out more that $500,000 in 2014 to stop medical marijuana. The Miami New Times suggests that Barnett’s financial contributions to anti-pot groups (VOTE NO on 2) may have something to with Publix being one of the largest pharmacy chains in the Southern United States.
But will opposing forces be able to put the kibosh on Amendment 2 again this year? Probably not, if the latest predictions are accurate. A new poll suggests there is stronger support for medical marijuana in 2016 than there was two years ago when the initiative failed by just 2 points. A survey conducted by Anzalone Listz Research found that 77 percent of the Florida voters plan to support Amendment 2 in the November election. These numbers are significantly higher than the 69 percent the same poll found back in 2014.
Therefore, from a betting standpoint, it sure does look like a comprehensive medical marijuana program is destined to become Florida law in the next few months.
Do you support medical marijuana in Florida?