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Could marijuana become legal in Florida?

7:12 PM, Nov 7, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- On Election Day, voters in Colorado and Washington passed amendments that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana for people 21 and older.

Could that happen in Florida? In the past, medical marijuana bills have been filed, but never voted on, in the House and Senate.

"I think it will happen because of money," said Randy Heine, owner of Rockin Cards & Gifts in Pinellas Park.

Heine said it could be a way for the state to think green in more ways than one. Under Amendment 64 passed in Colorado, the first $40 million in non-medical marijuana taxes would go to the state's public school construction fund. 

"Nobody's talking about this here in our state," Heine said. "I'd like to see that here."

So would 80 percent of people who responded on the 10 News Facebook page.

But others say they would not support legalization. They point to the fact that federal law still prohibits possession of pot, and the impact of that on Colorado and Washington is still to be determined. Others say they want the recreational use of marijuana to be banned because they call it a "gateway drug".

"This is an area of intense debate among the medical community, and it's certainly been politicized, which has made it difficult to come out with any sort of definitive statements," said USF Morsani School of Medicine Assistant Professor Ryan Estevez, MD, PhD. 

According to Dr. Estevez, those who use marijuana regularly can be more likely to eventually use harder drugs. But he said research has shown just a correlation, not necessarily that one causes the other.

"There are certainly a lot of people who are able to use it responsibly and recreationally," he says. "But there is going to be a percentage of the population, much like alcohol, that is going to abuse it and suffer consequences from it, both medically and societally."

Back at Heine's shop, he says 10 percent of his customers have left for Colorado over the years. The state has allowed medical marijuana since an amendment passed on it in 2000. He's hoping someday, it will get the green light here.

"I'm not lazy, I don't lie, I don't steal, I don't cheat. I just work," Heine said. "I love to work. And pot has helped me through some of the rough times."

First Coast News

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