Editorial: Vote No on solar-power amendment, Yes on medical marijuana

Four measures on the Nov. 8 ballot would amend the Florida Constitution. We’d like to address two of them. One concerns solar energy and should be rejected. The second is about medical marijuana and deserves your support.

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Amendment 1 is a con. And you, the voter, are the intended mark.

Titled, “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy,” it looks for all the world like a measure to help spread solar energy across Florida. But in reality, it’s a ploy by the large utility companies to protect their dominance of the energy market.

The electricity giants such as Florida Power & Light vehemently deny any motives other than to protect the consumer. But why would they have put up $21 million to ensure the amendment’s passage if not to further their own interests?

Their deceptive amendment was created a year ago to counter a ballot measure proposed by Floridians for Solar Choice, a group of environmentalists, libertarians and others who wanted to break barriers of entry for solar power entrepreneurs. If it passed, Floridians would have had more leeway to install rooftop panels at little upfront cost and sell excess energy.

To stave off this threat to their state-protected monopoly, the utilities fashioned a ballot proposal of their own. It survives, even though the “solar choice” measure it was meant to thwart failed to gain enough signatures to make it onto the Nov. 8 ballot.

The amendment now facing voters would guarantee consumers “the right to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use.” But Floridians already have that right under state law.

The hitch resides in this clause: “Consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.” This gift to the utility companies would write into the state constitution the questionable premise that solar customers are somehow “subsidized” by everyone else. This could result in the imposition of unreasonable fees on those who go solar.

If you want to speed the day when you can put an affordable solar panel on your roof, reject this cynical ballot measure. Vote no on Amendment 1.

Twenty-five states have legalized the use of marijuana plants for medical purposes. But not Florida.

Even when the Legislature approved a very limited version of a medical marijuana bill in 2014 — allowing patients with a few specific debilitating diseases to take a cannabis low in THC (the chemical that induces euphoria) — the state took two plodding years to write regulations, issue permits and begin, in a small way, to make the substance available.

The public has been losing patience. Two years ago, a medical marijuana initiative got 57.6 percent of the vote, just shy of the required 60 percent.

This year, polls indicate the vote will be larger. And it should be. On this issue, the public is far ahead of the politicians.

Amendment 2 would allow doctors to certify patients for 10 specific conditions, including cancer, ALS and MS. For minors, parental consent would be required along with the doctor’s OK.

Opponents in 2014 seized on vague language, but this version of the initiative cleans up and clarifies the previous weaknesses. Even Attorney General Pam Bondi, a fierce opponent then, didn’t seek to block the present initiative in the state Supreme Court.

A majority of Floridians have come to learn that marijuana can reduce pain and soothe tremors, often without the side effects of prescription drugs.

With old myths breaking down, it is time for Florida to become the first Southern state to OK medical marijuana. Vote yes on Amendment 2.

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