November 7, 1997
Will voters in Florida be able to decide if the War on Drugs should be rolled back slightly to allow individuals with serious chronic and life-threatening illnesses to use marijuana as
medicine? If the Coalition Advocating Medical Marijuana can get an amendment to Florida's constitution on next year's ballot they will. CAMM will hold an activist training session on Friday, Nov. 7, on how to gather voter signatures for that purpose. That
meeting is at 3:30 p.m. at the downtown Orlando Public Library (101 E. Central Blvd., 3rd Fl.) It will be preceded by a
noon press conference at the Orange County Courthouse (150 N. Orange Ave.) and followed by a fund-raiser featuring local bands MT Minds, KOW, Gargamel and Bughead at Will's Loch Haven Pub (1850 N. Hwy. 17-92; 9 p.m.; $5 at the door).
The intent of CAMM's proposed constitutional amendment is "very, very similar" to California's
Proposition 215, says Kevin Aplin, a group spokesman. The amendment would allow doctors licensed in Florida to "recommend marijuana to their patients - people with AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple
sclerosis, other serious illnesses," Aplin explains. Doctors would be protected from legal penalties for making those recommendations and their patients would be shielded from prosecution or penalty for using and growing pot.
The organization grew out of a project started by its head, paralegal Toni Leeman, when she worked for the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. An Aug. 28 article in the
Weekly Planet, a Tampa newspaper, reported that Leeman became interested in the issue when she found out her best friend had cancer: "That whole ordeal angered Leeman and spurred her to action. 'This is really a privacy issue for me,' she said. 'What gives the government the right to tell me that I can drink a martini but I can't smoke a joint?'" CAMM's board of directors is made up of patients, physicians, lawyers, professors and activists, including Aplin, who is also a member of the Cannabis Action Network, a pro-hemp group. Their common thread? They "believe in compassion and believe marijuana is a safe and
effective medicine for people who are ill." For them the medical use of marijuana is a health issue separate from its recreational use.
CAMM faces a difficult task in getting its measure on next year's ballot - obtaining the signatures of 435,000 registered voters from across the state. They must be turned into county
election offices for verification by the middle of next summer. "Several thousand" signatures have been collected already according to Aplin who declined to be more specific about the
number. Amendments generally make it onto Florida's ballot because their proponents have the resources to hire professional petitioners. At present, CAMM is relying strictly on volunteers.
"Nobody's getting paid for this yet," Aplin says. "It's the true spirit of the initiative process [which] was set up so citizens could effect government in Florida, and, unfortunately,
special-interest groups like the casino lobby in the past have sort of circumvented the process by just big money."
What Would Happen If...
I'm a first-generation Floridian, a second-generation American, a college
drop-out and have a strong anti-authoritarian, anti-corporate bent. I
edited and published two local "alternative" newspapers - The Orlando
Collegian and The Orlando Spectator (three if you count The Orlando
Reporter, which had one paper issue before becoming an e-zine), and also
free-lanced for The Orlando Weekly. But I don't call myself a journalist
because that sounds pretentious.
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