County probes impact of medical marijuana on farms
County commissioners want to know how legalizing medical marijuana in Florida would impact Miami-Dade’s farming areas.
Commissioners on Tuesday voted 12-1, Javier Souto dissenting, to direct Mayor Carlos Gimenez to conduct a study to assess the potential impact on the agricultural areas and report back within two months.
The action follows a vote Friday by Florida legislators to permit limited use of medical marijuana – allowing doctors to prescribe a special strain of “non-euphoric” marijuana for treatment of chronic epileptic seizures and some other severe illnesses. Gov. Rick Scott has said he will sign the bill into law.
Meanwhile, a constitutional amendment is planned for November’s Florida ballot by a public petition campaign that would allow doctors to prescribe regular marijuana for patients with severe disabilities.
The county resolution was sponsored by Dennis Moss, whose district includes agricultural lands in the south end of the county.
Mr. Moss said he is not taking a position on medical marijuana, but Miami-Dade has large agricultural areas and he wants the county to be prepared to deal with it from that standpoint, including security aspects of it.
The state bill authorizes designation of five dispensaries operating by established nursery owners, who would cultivate a special blend of marijuana under closely regulated conditions.
Mr. Moss indicated he also is wondering how new laws in Florida that would permit the use of medical marijuana could put the state or county at odds with federal laws banning marijuana and what the impacts might be.
“What happens if the state approves it, but it’s prohibited at the federal level?” he asked.
Mr. Souto, however, said it is too soon for the county to get involved in the issue. He also expressed concerns about the negative effects of marijuana and other narcotics.
“I think it is premature to jump into things,” Mr. Souto said. “Although [medical marijuana] has passed in other states, we’ve had enough problems” with narcotics in South Florida.
Marijuana “is a controlled substance,” he said. “We should think before getting into this.”
He recalled how, years ago, many people thought cocaine had little or no lasting effects on users, “but now we know what cocaine does.”
That and other drugs, he added, can “inflict tremendous suffering and tremendous complications for our society.”
Tuesday’s resolution cited recent polling that found that 57% to 82% of Florida voters supported the proposed medical marijuana state constitutional amendment.
The resolution also states that Miami-Dade’s agricultural industry employs more than 20,000 people and produces more than $2.7 billion a year in economic impact.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll on attitudes about marijuana found 88% of Florida voters favored allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a doctor prescribes it. That included 84% of voters over age 65.
It also found that 53% of Florida voters supported allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Only 45% of Florida voters admitted they’d tried marijuana. The highest use – 62% – was among voters ages 50 to 64.