By Danny Turkel ACLU of Florida Communications Assistant
On Monday of this week, the Florida Supreme Court approved the ballot language for a proposed ballot initiative that would allow patients to legally obtain marijuana.
If the voters of Florida approve the measure, it will be an important victory for patients as well as reflect a recognition by Floridians that our fear-driven drug policies that have destroyed communities need to be re-evaluated and changed.
This past Friday, January 24th, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon appeared on WPBT2′s weekly news and public affairs program, Issues, hosted by Helen Aguirre Ferré to discuss the ballot initiative and other possible reforms for marijuana policy in the state.
They were joined by Ana Moreno, co-founder of Family Recovery Specialists, which specializes in addiction prevention and treatment. Ms. Moreno discussed the health concerns surrounding the use of marijuana as well as the costs of addiction treatment in regard to tobacco and alcohol, while Mr. Simon focused on the cruelty of denying treatment to patients in pain, the public policy and racial issues of incarceration and the resources spent to prosecute marijuana use.
Referring to the ACLU’s 2013 report on how marijuana laws are enforced in a racially-biased way, Simon described the discrepancies in the rates of incarceration between African-American and white citizens. Nationwide, African-Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. That number jumps to 5.4 times in Miami-Dade County and as much as 10 times in other parts of Florida.
“The consequences of having a criminal justice approach as opposed to a public health approach have really crippled this country,” Simon said to which both Ms. Aguirre Ferré and Ms. Moreno enthusiastically agreed.