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Some lawmakers concerned about legalizing weed

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Posted at 4:42 PM, Oct 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-15 17:24:25-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-- Melissa Villar is a recreational user of marijuana and isn’t afraid to say it. “That is exactly why we’re pushing for legalization. We need to not be afraid of being arrested for having cannabis.”

Advocating for change is what brought her to a House Health & Human Services Committee meeting.

For more than an hour — lawmakers tried to get up to speed on the risks of weed. The chair said that knowledge would be crucial as November nears.

“We’re all going to be asked by our constituents, where are we on this. We need to be equipped to take a position and articulate why we’ve taken that position," Rep. Ray Rodrigues, (R) Estero said.

Bertha K. Madras, PhD, a professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, didn’t pull any punches. “Marijuana is not benign. It is not safe. It is addictive.”

She cited data suggesting risk to highway safety is two times greater, under the influence of pot. Plus, long-term use has been linked to mental illness.

Some lawmakers left with their minds made up. “You don’t think it’s a good idea? Recreational? No I do not," said Rodrigues.

He said to expect more meetings in the future. Likely featuring those advocating recreational use. People like Villar— who believed regulating marijuana like alcohol would make it a safer product. “It’s crucially important to get people out from the underground— to legalized markets and get it out of the hands of teenagers," Villar said.

To date, two ballot initiatives for recreational weed have yet to reach 100,000 valid signatures. They need more than 766,000 signatures by February to get on the ballot.