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Politics / Issues

Fact-Checking Marijuana Claims

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There is going to be a lot of talk about marijuana in the state of Florida between now and November, when Floridians will be given an opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment that would allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Around the country, 20 states and the District of Columbia have already taken that step.

To clear the air as the debate over medical marijuana gets underway here, PolitiFact Florida fact-checked some claims being made about the medical marijuana and the effects of marijuana.

One of the strongest claims came from "Headline News Network" host Nancy Grace, who said that people on pot "shoot each other, stab each other, strangle each other, drive under the influence, kill families."

"We rated this one mostly false," said PolitiFact editor Angie Holan. "Now there are certainly individual cases where people commit violent acts who have also smoked marijuana. But she's making this argument that makes it sound like the marijuana caused them to do this. And when we talked with behavioral science experts they said that a turn toward violence is not one of the direct effects of using the drug for most people."

Grady Judd, the Polk County sheriff,  has said Florida’s proposed amendment for medical marijuana would allow "people who alleged minor ailments such as muscle spasms, neck pain, back pain and even menstrual cramps (to qualify) for government-sanctioned pot-smoking."

The "Marijuana Policy Project" has said that "marijuana is less toxic than alcohol."

Mostly true, again, said PolitiFact.

"Now, when you look at things like drinking alcohol to excess versus using marijuana to excess, alcohol can be fatal. There aren't that many fatalities associated with marijuana use, in fact, hardly any," explained Holan. "The one note of concern that we found was that doctors said that marijuana can sometimes affect people who are predisposed to mental problems to having a psychotic disorder which is certainly an area of concern."

And finally, marijuana today is "genetically modified," with THC levels that "far surpass the marijuana" of the 1970s.

That's what former congressman Patrick Kennedy said last month.

PolitiFact ruled that statement mostly true.

"The THC levels, that's the potent element of marijuana, do seem to be higher," Holan said. "Now, we did knock him down one notch. It's actually from genetic selection, from traditional breeding of plants. It's not from modifying the plants genetically in a lab."

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