Medical Marijuana Back on the Ballot in Florida
By Gray Rohrer
Medical marijuana is back on the Florida ballot.
Voters will get a second chance to decide whether to legalize marijuana for debilitating medical conditions.
Orlando attorney John Morgan's United for Care group, which has been pushing for the amendment, announced Wednesday it had gathered enough petitions to earn a spot on the November general election ballot.
The Florida Division of Elections reported the group has 692,981 verified signatures, nearly 10,000 more than the minimum required. It will appear before voters as Amendment 2.
"Compassion is coming," said Morgan in a news release. "This November, Florida will pass this law and hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering people will see relief. What Tallahassee politicians refused to do, the people will do together in this election."
A similar amendment failed in 2014, even though 58 percent of voters approved it. State law requires amendments to get 60 percent support to pass.
Ben Pollara, campaign manager and treasurer of United for Care, said this year's ballot measure differs from the 2014 version. He said it has clearer definitions of the medical conditions eligible for being treated with marijuana -- cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma and others -- and requires a parental consent verified by a doctor and the state health agency before minors can get the drug.
This time around, Pollara said he was confident the ballot measure would meet the 60 percent bar, but he admitted supporters will have to hit the airwaves harder in a presidential election year to get through to voters.
"We're going to have to raise more money than last time. Whether we have opposition or not, we're going to have to do a better job," Pollara said.
The size and scope of any organized opposition to the ballot measure could prove vital to its chances.
In 2014 a coalition of anti-drug groups called Don't Let Florida Go to Pot rallied against the bill, garnering heavy-hitting donors such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The Florida Chamber of Commerce is also opposed to the measure because the group doesn't believe it should be part of the constitution.
A spokeswoman for Drug Free America, a group that was part of the coalition opposing the measure in 2014, couldn't be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Pollara said the reason the amendment is needed is because the Republican-controlled Legislature didn't take up medical marijuana bills filed by Democrats in recent years.
"The voters realize the Legislature has failed again and again on this issue," Pollara said.
Lawmakers, however, did pass into law a measure legalizing non-euphoric marijuana for treatment of certain conditions, but a series of legal challenges by nurseries looking to dispense medical marijuana has left the law mired in red tape.
Pollara, though, said he is confident state health agencies under Gov. Rick Scott, who said he opposed the 2014 measure, will apply the new medical marijuana laws if they're approved by voters.
"Doctors should be allowed to recommend this substance to their patients. We're not reinventing the wheel here. Twenty-three other states have done this," Pollara said.
(c)2016 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)