As Florida gears up to vote on Amendment 2, a piece of legislation that would alter current medical marijuana laws in November, a range of people and groups are throwing big chunks of money at both sides of the cause. Making headlines most recently is the fact that the Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust made a donation of $800,000 on July 14 to Drug Free Florida, a group working to stop the medical marijuana amendments from going through.
Carol Jenkins Barnett is the heiress to the Publix fortune, a chain of grocery stores that proliferate across Florida, and many see her donation as Publix itself supporting the cause of stopping medical marijuana amendments. This has been a divisive revelation at best. Some say that they will stop shopping at the grocery store if it is the case that Publix is in support of the conservative group that many say is responsible for blocking the 2014 medical marijuana amendment vote, while others say that they are more committed to shopping there as a result.
The fact is that the donation is not an indication of the political leanings of Publix as a corporation but of the individual person who donated the money – an indication of Ms. Jenkins Barnett’s beliefs. She reportedly donated $500,000 to the organization when it was fighting medical marijuana amendments back in 2014 as well. She no longer works with the company directly; thus, it is not a reflection of Publix that she is donating to this cause personally.
Maria Brous is the spokesperson for Publix. She said via email: “Publix has not made a contribution in support of or in opposition to Amendment 2,” she says via email. “The donation made by Carol Jenkins Barnett was a personal donation and not one made by the company.”
Even Ben Pollara, the campaign manager for the United for Care, a group that backs Amendment 2 says he does not believe that Publix had anything to do with the donation and that it was a personal choice of Jenkins Barnett.
It is important to note, too, that Publix routinely donates an estimated $25 million annually to a range of charity organizations and while Jenkins Barnett still maintained her post with the grocery store chain, the corporation donated a quarter-million dollars to aid the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that happened in June.
A recent poll released by United for Care found that about 77 percent of voters polled in Florida were in support of amending the current medical marijuana laws. A 60 percent vote is needed to pass the legislation. A “yes” vote would support changes to the current limited medical marijuana laws that allow for the use of non-euphoric strains of marijuana under certain circumstances. The changes would include the legalization of use of medical marijuana that has higher levels of THC for specific diseases, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, PTSD, ALS, and multiple sclerosis.
While that sounds fair and reasonable, a “yes” vote would also allow for the prescription of higher-level THC marijuana strains to individuals diagnosed with a “comparable debilitating condition” as determined by a physician. This is the part that is dividing voters. Many see this as essentially overturning the limited medical marijuana laws currently in place and legalizing medical marijuana freely – meaning that almost anyone who connected with the right doctor could walk out with a prescription for the addictive drug.
The fact is that those who do not give serious consideration to the risks around easy access to any addictive substance, including marijuana, are not fully respecting the drug. Marijuana is addictive. It has caused more than a few ongoing problems in states where it is currently legal for medical and/or recreational use. For example, courts are still trying to determine how best to handle situations in the workplace where an employee agreed to remain drug-free and take random drug tests but then was given a prescription for marijuana. Should they be allowed to use the drug at work? Is it okay if they are under the influence while on the clock? What if they use the drug during off hours but still have the drug in their system at work and cannot pass a drug test?
Then there is the issue of drugged driving. This is a considerable problem that puts at risk the lives of others on the road, yet no way has been determined to accurately judge what level of THC in the blood is debilitating to a driver’s ability to handle a car safely, nor is there a way to test THC levels in the field.
There are a number of good questions that have yet to be answered about the drug and Florida voters who vote “yes” are essentially agreeing to be guinea pigs in this experiment. Is this a risk that you are willing to take for your family as well as for yourself? How will you vote in November?