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It’s time we better protect Florida veterans – Let’s pass Amendment 3 | Opinion

Miami Herald - 6/12/2024

I’ve seen my fellow combat veterans return home and do anything they can to offset the lingering effects of service. Pills, self-medication and self-prescription — all with the simple goal of self-preservation: to get a good night of sleep, to pick up their kids pain-free, to lead a healthy life.

As a veteran of the Iraq War, I returned home to see those I served alongside turn to unchecked, untested and unprotected substances to treat pain, visible and hidden. As a public servant, I’ve learned that our veteran community is a microcosm of what happens across our communities, with too many families having fallen victim to the stranglehold of the opioid crisis.

Florida, we can do better.

That’s why I’m a strong yes on Amendment 3 on the November ballot. It’s time to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state of Florida. It’s time to give our veterans — and all Floridians — the freedom and peace of mind that is already granted to over half of Americans in states across the country.

It’s time we offer a safe alternative to opioids and treatment options, both for our veteran population and so adult Floridians can take part in the liberty of safe-use cannabis.

A ‘yes’ vote for Amendment 3 is a vote to help keep cartel-trafficked marijuana off the streets and to ensure safe use of safe products. Unchecked and untested, street-level marijuana can be laced with dangerous materials including heavy metals, pesticides, glass, heroin, fentanyl and other illegal substances.

These substances have already claimed too many of our veterans who bravely fought to protect our freedoms.

Florida is home to one of the highest veteran populations in the country. While that’s something to be proud of, it’s only a mark of distinction if we’re doing our due diligence to thank them for protecting our freedoms abroad by ensuring theirs at home.

In 2022, Florida was home to the most opioid deaths in of any state in the country. Synthetic and laced marijuana was and remains a contributing cause to opioid-related deaths.

Our status quo is not protecting anyone. Not our veterans, not our communities, and not our children.

Not to mention, the easing of restrictions on adult-use marijuana will allow law enforcement to focus on violent crime, not petty possession charges, and allow first responders to focus on emergent opioid drug use, saving even more lives.

I am proud to support Amendment 3, and I will work fiercely on the legislature floor to enact comprehensive implementation regulations, spanning from cultivation to consumption, including preventing people from smoking in public.

Safe use is only possible with smart implementation — and no, we will not become a “stinky state.”

Instead, Florida will become the state that looked after its veterans, the state that enacted proven policies and the state that empowered the freedoms our veteran population fought abroad, preserving them at home.

I urge voters to vote yes on Amendment 3.

Lisa Dunkley is a military veteran and a member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing District 97.

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