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Florida Drug Law Reform - Bush Attacks Ballot Initiative

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Published On: August 26, 2001          Updated On: August 26, 2001
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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Florida Right To Treatment Act - 
Bush Attacks Ballot initiative
August 25, 2001

ORLANDO - A proposed ballot initiative that would require courts to offer treatment to certain drug offenders came under attack by Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday.

The initiative, called "Right to Treatment and Rehabilitation for Nonviolent Drug Offenders," would force judges to grant treatment or rehabilitation to anyone charged with simple possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia.

"To suggest there should be no penalties for continued drug use is to stick our heads in the sand," Bush said.

Only first and second-time drug offenders would be eligible for treatment.  Also, those accused of selling drugs and offenders facing accompanying charges of theft or violent crimes, drunken driving or other serious crimes would be barred from the treatment alternative.

A California group supported by billionaire financier George Soros is trying get the constitutional amendment on Florida's 2002 ballot.

The idea is modeled after California's Proposition 36, approved by voters last year.

Sydney P. Smith, chairman for the Florida Campaign for New Drug Policies, said Bush's criticism is a typical misrepresentation of the proposed amendment.

"People keep misstating what the law is because they don't have a prayer (of stopping its approval)," Smith said.

The initiative needs petition signatures of 488,722 Florida voters to make it on the ballot.

The petition effort recently surpassed the 48,869 signatures needed to trigger a review by the state attorney general and then the Florida Supreme Court to ensure the measure complies with ballot laws.

Among the requirements are that the measure be only about one subject and that the wording be clear.

Bush made his remarks at a luncheon in Orlando honoring the 30th anniversary of the Center for Drug Free Living.

The center is one of 78 community and law-enforcement programs helping people fight substance abuse that will receive $4 million in grants from the state, Bush said.

"Prevention is the key to reducing drug abuse in our state," Bush said. "Preventing the illegal use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco among our young people now will save us a myriad of costs later - social, economic and, of course, human.

"These grants will go a long way in aiding our prevention efforts."

Newshawk: Sledhead -
Pubdate: Fri, 24 Aug 2001
Source: Naples Daily News (FL)
Copyright: 2001 Naples Daily News.
Author: Mike Branom, Associated Press


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