Today we get a story of political hypocrisy from Florida that would be funnier if it didn’t directly affect the healthcare of millions of Floridians.
In 2010, when the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was passed, the Republican-led Florida legislature sprang into action. They proposed a constitutional amendment that basically gutted most of Obamacare. The Florida courts threw out the anti-Obamacare amendment, saying that its ballot summary to “protect the doctor-patient relationship” did not match what the actual text of the amendment would do. The Republicans complained that the courts were interfering with the will of the people by not allowing a vote to take place on the amendment.
In 2012, the US Supreme Court decided Obamacare was constitutional, going against the predictions of conservatives who thought the Roberts Court would overturn it. Remarking on that decision, Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott said the court had, “forced the government into the important relationship between patients and their doctors.”
The following election, the legislature tweaked their anti-Obamacare amendment’s summary to pass judicial muster. When it got on the ballot in 2012, it only got 48.5% of the vote and constitutional amendments need 60% to pass in Florida.
So what about the important relationship between doctors who recommends medical marijuana to their patients? How are the Florida Republicans on listening to the will of the people on the proposed medical marijuana amendment for 2014?
On Thursday, one Florida Republican, Rep. Matt Gaetz, who heads the Florida House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, held a two-hour hearing on the “Charlotte’s Web” variety of marijuana used to make the oil high in cannabidiol (CBD) that has proven effective in combating many forms of epilepsy.
Meanwhile, activists have gathered over a million signatures to put a constitutional amendment for medical marijuana on the ballot. Polls show support for medical marijuana at 82% in the Sunshine State, with even 70% of Republicans in favor.
Despite overwhelming support for medical marijuana, the state’s GOP establishment has put up every roadblock possible to enacting the people’s will. Rep. Gaetz’s hearing on CBD oil marked the first time any government body in Florida has ever discussed the issue of medical marijuana. For three straight years proponents of legislation to legalize medical use have been denied any hearings on their bill in Tallahassee.
GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi has challenged the constitutional amendment at the Florida Supreme Court, which has until April 1 to decide if the measure can be voted on by the people. Bondi claims the ballot summary indicates medical marijuana will only be for “debilitating conditions,” but that the actual language would allow “California-style” medical marijuana for any condition. She wants the Supreme Court to block the amendment on that technicality.
You read that right: the Republicans who complained courts blocked the people from voting on their anti-Obamacare amendment, one that turned out to be opposed by the majority, are now using the same court tactic to block a medical marijuana amendment that 70% of their own voters support. The Republicans who complained about government intrusion into the doctor/patient relationship with Obamacare are more than willing to have government intrude on the relationship between kids with epilepsy and adults with ALS and their doctors who recommend medical marijuana.
Ironically, AG Bondi was joined by Rep. Gaetz’s father, State Senate President Don Gaetz, as well as State House Speaker Will Weatherford. When asked about AG Bondi’s attempts to block the voters from deciding on medical marijuana, the same Gov. Rick Scott who complained about Obamacare’s intrusion on the doctor/patient relationship said, “I think the attorney general has done the right thing with the advice she gave the Supreme Court. I oppose illegal drug abuse…I've watched what it does to families.”
It seems to me that in Florida, at least, most Republicans oppose anything that might get health care to families. When it comes to the “will of the people,” I guess only the corporate people like Big Healthcare, Big Pharmaceutical, and Big Prison get any say in Florida.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of "The Russ Belville Show."