Florida editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Nov. 22

The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun on medical marijuana choice on the ballot:

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz have joined the debate about medical marijuana. Their arrival is indefensibly late.

On Oct. 24, Attorney General Pam Bondi sent to the Florida Supreme Court the ballot language of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Floridians to use marijuana for medical reasons. She said the language is misleading and asked for an opinion on it. On Nov. 8, Weatherford and Gaetz filed their own brief in the case. Then Bondi filed her own brief. Oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 5.

Unfortunately, Weatherford and Gaetz showed essentially zero interest in the medical-marijuana issue when it came up in the Legislature last session. That would have been the right time and place to work through legal language. Instead, bills that would have permitted the medical use of marijuana under strict conditions died in committees.

The Legislature ignored the opportunity to carefully craft a law that would allow the use of marijuana as a medical necessity. As a result, Weatherford and Gaetz — like Florida legislative leaders have many times in the past — ceded the debate of a difficult issue to the election process for proposed constitutional amendments.

Polls have shown that a solid majority of Florida voters support medical marijuana.

Bondi, however, contends the proposal doesn’t convey its “true meaning and ramifications.” She told the state Supreme Court that, if the amendment passes, “Florida law would allow marijuana in limitless situations.”

Such an interpretation of the proposed amendment twists the meaning of the language, amendment supporters say. Ben Pollara, campaign manager for People United, has said the claim that Florida would become one of the most lenient states on marijuana regulation if the proposal is approved is “way off base.”

The challenges by Bondi, Weatherford and Gaetz should make for interesting arguments in court; the proposed amendment was written by Jon Mills, onetime House speaker and now dean emeritus of the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

It is a debate, however, that should have taken place in the Legislature.




Nov. 23

Miami Herald on listening to Cuba’s dissidents:

The Obama administration is dropping broad hints of possible changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba. Any change should come with a cautionary note: Watch what Cuba’s leaders do to dissidents and the average citizen alike, not what they say about “modernizing” Cuba.

It’s encouraging to hear that the administration is thinking about how to move the needle on Cuba, as President Obama told an audience in Miami recently. Too often Cuban issues are deemed politically risky and shoved aside.

But policy toward Cuba should not be forged in a vacuum. Raúl Castro and his octogenarian colleagues show that they’re determined to hang onto power. They’re not interested in genuine democracy and they’re not about to tolerate any changes that could threaten their survival.

This goes to the heart of what Cuba’s dictatorship is all about — power. It’s important to put events in this context and not the false reality portrayed by the regime.

President Obama sparked speculation about upcoming changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba when he told a private Democratic Party fundraiser here that “we have to continue to update our policies” toward that beleaguered nation. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry repeated those same words in a major speech on Latin America. …

Kerry properly noted changes in Cuba that make life a bit easier for people by allowing more Cubans to travel freely and work for themselves. But such changes and selective actions don’t portend a change in the nature of the regime. The secretary of State noted that this “should absolutely not blind us to the authoritarian reality of life for ordinary Cubans.”





Nov. 26

The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on Iran agreement merits skepticism:

Americans have grown accustomed to regarding Iran as an intransigent foe, one that seemed intent on developing nuclear weapons, a quest that infuriated the nearby Israelis and Saudi Arabians and defied Western nations demanding it cease its dangerous ambitions.

Well, late Saturday night the Iranians finally told the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China that it would suspend its nuclear ambitions in exchange for a temporary relaxation of the economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.

But this hardly means the Iranians are our friends, and congressional leaders have good cause to be skeptical of the agreement, which by no means eliminates Iran’s ability to become a nuclear power.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the deal calls for Tehran to limit nuclear efforts in exchange for loosening of Western sanctions worth more than $6 billion to Iran, though many sanctions will remain in place until a broader agreement is reached.

Although Iranian leaders consistently denied they were seeking to develop nuclear weaponry, their agreement Saturday to stop doing so would appear to be a tacit concession that the United States and its allies were right all along.

Two of America’s strongest allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, were dismayed by the agreement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Saturday’s agreement as “an historic mistake.”

Because Israel especially enjoys so much support from both parties on Capitol Hill, President Obama can expect to be sharply criticized for his role in reaching this agreement with Iran.

The “interim” agreement looks to have gaping holes, allowing Iran to continue low-level uranium enrichment that Israeli authorities believe could be used to mask secret efforts to develop weapons-grade fuel.

Americans have no reason to believe Iran, which until recently has demonstrated only contempt for the “Great Satan,” will be more diligent about its promises.



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