Yes, it has only been two years since medical marijuana was on the ballot in Florida. It was Proposition 2 then, and it is Proposition 2 now. We were opposed to it then, and we are opposed now. This article will close with the same paragraph that was used for the October 5th, 2014 Spiritual Perspectives. Two years ago, the Orlando Sentinel presented both sides of the issue; maybe having the facts dissuaded some people for voting in favor of it. It missed becoming law because only 58% of the public (60% is needed) voted in favor of it.
On September 30, 2016, the Orlando Sentinel published an opinion piece by Republican Paula Dockery, a 16-year veteran of the Florida Legislature. She pled for people to vote yes in order to pass the amendment; no stance for the other side was published (at least on the same day). Some might find her reasoning compelling, but it is full of logical fallacies. In making an argument, one should examine the issue at hand and present the merits for it or the drawbacks against it. If the position is weak, advocates will frequently use techniques that constitute logical fallacies. Paula did so throughout her article.
After framing the issue, she offered an explanation for the reason the amendment failed the previous time. A mean dastardly, worthless outsider mounted a campaign against it. Well, no, she didn’t use those terms, but she might as well have. She wrote that the previous amendment had a good chance of passing
until a strong and well-financed opposition went on the attack. Billionaire casino boss Sheldon Anderson—resident of Nevada—was a major financial backer of the “No on 2” effort.
So, who likes billionaires? They probably stole their wealth from the little guy. This is what the reader is supposed to think. Yes, the opposition to passage was well-financed. Boo! And they don’t even have a dog in this fight, being from Nevada. How despicable!
This logical fallacy is the ad hominem attack. It is primarily aimed against the man. Notice what she did not say. Why does a casino owner care about a medical marijuana issue in Florida? It is not apparent that he has anything to gain by opposing it. Did he have a reason? If so, what was it? Maybe, being so close to California, he knew how well the law had worked there (suddenly everyone had a prescription from his doctor). Surely, more than 40% of the public did not vote against the amendment based on advertising bought by a casino owner. What were the other reasons people had for opposing the amendment?
Dockery had more ad hominem attacks to dish out: “Critics relied on doomsday scenarios and scare tactics… They enlisted the help of…the sheriffs.”
So how unfair was that? Of course, law enforcement would be against it. They’re all just trying to scare people. Really? How? By providing facts? Is it a scare tactic to show what has happened in other states? How about these news stories?
Fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled in Washington after the state legalized the drug, according to the latest research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Last year, 545 people died in Colorado traffic accidents, an 11.7 percent increase from the 488 traffic deaths recorded in 2014, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Of course these states legalized marijuana, period, but legalizing “medical” marijuana has a similar effect because it is more available in general. These are not scare tactics; they are called facts.
Paula Dockery praises John Morgan for contributing millions to get this law passed. Rich men spending money against the amendment are evil, but rich men in favor of it are good guys. Some have wondered if Morgan’s advertising campaign should be: “Morgan and Morgan: For the Stoned People.” A great many young people are hopeful that the amendment passes.
The next argument that Dockery employs is a variation of the “poor poor pitiful me” ploy. Yes, Morgan and his organization “jumped through all the hoops again” to get the amendment on the ballot. Are we supposed to be sympathetic? He’s a lawyer, and he knows how to file forms. This is reminiscent of the meeting members of the church here had before the Seminole County council, when we protested a bar opening up across the street. A woman from the county testified how a man had to come out and measure the distance between the two doors (ours and the one that would belong to the sports bar). She further protested that he had to drive so far (just because we objected to it)— and take the measurement on a hot day. The board was not swayed by such tactics.
Next, Dockery uses the bandwagon approach. In other words, the measure will surely succeed this time. The public may as well vote for it. The data here includes that it just barely failed last time. Polls indicate that from 65% to 73% of the public are now in favor of it. Hmm. If that’s true, then why write the article? If it’s a shoo-in to pass, why stir things up by calling attention to it? In addition, 24 other states have already adopted such laws. What a source for information! Why isn’t any of it mentioned? Of those states who have made marijuana use legal, have they had any increased problems as a result? More automobile accidents? More home invasions? More traffic accidents?
Why doesn’t Dockery cite information to prove that allowing marijuana just for medical use has worked well? Why doesn’t she say that no social problems have increased or broken out and put to rest any fears that someone might have?
And while we’re on this subject, what is the penalty if someone forges a doctor’s signature? Jail? Do we even send anyone to prison now for using marijuana? Why will it not get worse if there are no safeguards on this legislation? If the amendment does have built-in protections, what are they? When someone writes an article to persuade the public about the need for this law, why doesn’t that individual—especially a 16-year Florida legislator—provide assurances that Florida society will remain the same—and back it up with data? Why is she relying on logical fallacies to make her case instead of legitimate information?
Paula has argued little more than what might be termed propaganda. The bandwagon argument, for example, only proves what is popular today. Many will remember that when the Equal Rights Amendment was first passed by Congress, it was ratified by 30 states within a year. It only received 5 more states’ support, and even with an extension, it died three states short of ratification. The point is that sometimes people and states jump on the bandwagon before they know what song is going to be played. There might not be one more state that ever legalizes medical marijuana, but even if five more do, so what? That does not make it right. Incidentally, some states rescinded acceptance of the Equal Rights Amendment, and the same thing could happen here.
The last fallacy was to appeal to anecdotal evidence. Dockery included a letter from a veteran who complained essentially that he could use marijuana legally in Maine, but when he came to Florida for the winter, he could not. He mentions that he received his wounds in Viet Nam. Most Americans have profound respect for those who have served their country and risked being killed. Our natural response is to honor all veterans, as well as those parents who have lost their sons (or daughters).
However, that respect and gratitude does not extend to the breaking of the law. (Do soldiers not serve to protect the rule of law?) Nor does it grant the right to Khizr Khan to be obnoxious, launch a political attack, and lecture on the Constitution. Most of us have read the document more than once—particularly, the second amendment, which some are trying to eradicate. We can honor soldiers and their parents for the hardships they have endured, but that does not include indulging everything they might be in favor of.
But even if Dockery had cited 15 cases (and probably hundreds more could be furnished), it would not prove that legalization is the best solution. No doubt some would be helped by passing the law, but how many more will suffer and die? How many innocent people will lose their lives due to car accidents? How many will become addicted to marijuana, losing both their focus and their way. Sure, we all desire to alleviate suffering, but is there a way to do it besides opening Pandora’s Box? Before we make something legal that potentially can do great damage, we should be certain that all loopholes are closed and that this is not merely a pretext to expand marijuana use in the state of Florida. The following paragraph concluded the 2014 article.
Only one clear choice presents itself in voting on Amendment 2: “Should we vote to expand the number of users of marijuana in Florida?” A “yes” vote will most assuredly accomplish that goal. A “no” vote will not eradicate marijuana use; the buying and selling of it illegally will continue to be done. Chances are that those who need the drug for health reasons are already getting it. Society does not need another element of corruption. No one is employing scare tactics in recounting what will happen. They just have examined what has happened elsewhere and are simply acknowledging reality.