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By: Rosalind McCarthy

Good, bad, or indifferent, most people you ask about medical marijuana have an opinion. Come November 8 the voters once again decide whether Florida passes Amendment 2.

This law will join Florida with California, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, among other states, who have passed a comprehensive medical marijuana law aimed at helping those dealing with debilitating medical conditions on a daily basis.

Related: Which States are Voting on Marijuana Reform in November 2016? 

In 2014, 58% – 3 Million – of Florida voters favored the passing of a comprehensive compassionate care law. Unfortunately, Florida did not meet the 60% super majority vote requirement needed to make changes to Florida’s constitution.

In its current form, Florida’s constitution states marijuana is illegal to possess, distribute, and/or use. Florida’s current “Charlotte’s Web” law is weak and very limiting at best. This law only allows a select few to use low-level THC cannabis oils.

The new language in this year’s amendment is quite a bit different than what was proposed in 2014. Under the proposed amendment medical marijuana will be regulated and controlled, and only licensed medical physicians will be allowed to prescribe to patients.

The new amendment clarifies key points that were implied but not explicitly stated in 2014. Ambiguity is removed and replaced with language that specifically articulates all medical conditions must be debilitating and more specifically rules out non-debilitating conditions.

Poll after poll shows that most Floridians believe that medical marijuana should be made available to those who need it. More specifically, there are 1.5 million African-Americans in Florida registered to vote and approximately 604,000 voters range between the ages of 18-45 years old.

Related: New Polling has Florida Medical Cannabis Initiative at 70% Support

In 2014 Florida Politics found support from 89 percent of millennials, or voters between ages 18 to 34 years old, who said they would vote for yes for legalization.

“This age group is the most supportive of the amendment. Shifting the culture by expanding legal cannabis awareness among HBCU students and alumni worldwide is our goal” says Julian Johnson, Founder of HBCannU.

Medical research has shown that when recommended by a physician, marijuana can help patients who are suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDs, MS, glaucoma, epilepsy, PTSD, and other ailments. Medical marijuana can help patients with seizures, chronic pain, and loss of appetite.

The passing of sensible laws as it pertains to medical marijuana is not just a medical issue up for consideration. Floridians in minority communities must consider the social, political and business impact legalization will have on our state.

The passing of Amendment 2 theoretically could open up the doors for those who are incarcerated for small marijuana possession offenses by providing them an opportunity to appeal their conviction.

Between 2001 and 2010, black residents were four times more likely than whites to get arrested and convicted for minor marijuana offenses, on average.

“Legalize it and not give those affected by the crooked ‘war on drugs’ [blacks]a place to go, connect and build. The people making the laws are the same people pushing over policing and over sentencing via mass incarceration. Call them out and make them do right by those they punished,” says Huey Mansa Musa Abuyi, Founder at Black in Cannabis.

The passing of Amendment 2 can protect medical marijuana laws while supporting local jurisdictions that are pushing for decriminalization laws. Both of these laws, respectively, help people get the medicine they need while keeping people who pose no danger to public safety out of the criminal justice system.

The big medical marijuana business boom is upon us and I predict within the next decade marijuana prohibition will come to an end. Studies show across the country only 1% of the approximately 3700 dispensaries are owned by African Americans entrepreneurs.

Related: NAACP and Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana Endorse Florida’s Amendment 2 to Legalize Medical Cannabis

The industry as a whole is estimated to bring in $6 billion by the year 2018. The application process for growing and distributing medical cannabis is now closed in Florida. However if Amendment 2, is passed the doors to this industry could possibly open up again.

The Florida Department of Health Office of Compassionate Use, responsible for the overall management of this process, will provide updated information on their website for those who don’t know where to go.

Supporting the rights of black farmers, entrepreneurs, and businesses who are interested in entering the industry is at the top of my agenda. The task of getting a license to grow and distribute will be difficult at best.

One can assume the licensing process will be strict and the fees exorbitant. In addition, the startup costs could run in the hundred thousands of dollars which by default becomes a huge roadblock.

Angel investors and investment fund managers have their eyes wide open looking for Florida entrepreneurs who have a new business model, product, service or idea that will garner their attention and make them want to invest.

There are services which can be offered to the industry such as legal, security, consulting, real estate, accounting, construction, etc., that do not depend on contact with the actual product.

What’s the best we can hope for by voting Yes on Amendment 2? Honestly I am not sure but the one thing I do know the passing of Amendment 2 gives minority communities license to hunt.

Now is the time to put in the work and figure it out. Minorities for Medical Marijuana, a Florida nonprofit organization will advocate on behalf of those who don’t have a voice in this industry.

Through our partnership with organizations such as Latinos for Cannabis and The Minority Business Alliance we are prepared to support and connect people of color who have an interest in the industry. Plainly speaking marijuana is no longer a street drug, it’s a business.

We have two options, get on board or get left behind. I propose we fight for our rights and go for the former. That’s why I will be voting yes in November on Amendment 2. What say you?

About the Author:

Rosalind McCarthy is Founder Minorities for Medical Marijuana. Minorities for Medical Marijuana is a Florida advocacy, marketing, and outreach nonprofit organization dedicated to inform and educate minority communities on the social, political, medical, and business aspects of the medical marijuana industry. Learn more about them at www.voteyes4bud.org.

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