Florida patients and investors nationwide were disappointed when Florida narrowly rejected Amendment 2, which would have legalized medical marijuana in Florida. Although it got 58 percent of the vote, you need 60 percent of the vote to pass a constitutional amendment in Florida.
Take heart would-be cannabis investors for as one election cycle ends another begins. As the 2016 election looms on the horizon, the forces behind Amendment 2, like trial attorney John Morgan, are hard at work gathering signatures and making plans for the next electoral battle.
Speaking with The Sun Sentinel, Morgan remained optimistic about the fate of medical marijuana in Florida. “We walked through a forest that we’d never been through before. When we walk through this forest again, we won’t be in the dark. We’ll be walking by familiar places.” Hopefully these familiar places will lead Morgan to pursuing a ballot initiative instead of a constitutional amendment this time around.
Morgan went on to tease the possibility of also placing recreational marijuana on the ballot as well. “I may even have two amendments. I may have the medical marijuana amendment and a full legalization amendment … If I’m collecting signatures, I just have people sign one for each. I can collect them both at the same price.” That would make for an interesting race since there has never been an election with medical and recreational marijuana on the same ballot.
Regardless of how it is packaged, Florida stands a much better chance in 2016 of passing marijuana reform than it did this year. In the 2014 election, Florida was a lightning rod for marijuana prohibitionists; and most of the anti-marijuana effort that election was focused on Florida.
For a little context, The Center for Public Integrity reports that marijuana supporters spent a paltry $1 million on television ads for the 2014 election; their opponents spent nothing. Alaska marijuana supporters only had to spend $8,210 on television ads.
Compare that with Florida where John Morgan spent $3.8 million of his own money to pass medical marijuana; and republican sugar-daddy Sheldon Adelson spent $4 million to defeat the measure. Florida was the battleground for marijuana in 2014, but it won’t be in 2016; it will be California.
With less attention paid to Florida, there will be less out-of-state money pouring in and it will be easier to pass a marijuana measure. If this sounds familiar that is because it is; Oregon faced a similar situation in 2012 and 2014.
In 2012, most of the cannabis industry’s efforts were focused on legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington. Consequently, there was not a strong enough effort in Oregon to legalize marijuana. Two years later, while prohibitionists are occupied with Florida, Oregon was able to land big name donors and make the final push necessary to legalize recreational marijuana.
Now will the same scenario play out exactly like that for Florida in 2016? Of course not, but the momentum is there to make some big gains the second time around. Remember, marijuana got a higher percentage of the vote than Florida’s newly re-elected governor, Rick Scott. If Florida can keep up the momentum, they could be on track to creating a $5 billion industry in the state.
Amendment 2 may not have succeeded in Florida in 2014, but it is poised to strike again in 2016. They say if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It worked for Oregon, so why not Florida? Only time will tell how cannabis reform will fare in Florida the next time around, but it never hurts to plant your seeds early just in case.