Florida Medical Marijuana Movement Passes Milestone

Medical Marijuana Reform

The medical marijuana advocacy group United for Care has just passed a significant milestone in its pursuit to legalize medical marijuana in the state of Florida. The organization has gathered more than 100,000 signatures in support of a proposed ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana, and now the signatures have been submitted to election officials.

Over the next 30 days, the state will review the signatures to make sure that they are valid. As long as at least 68,317 of those signatures are validated, the proposed initiative will then go before the state Supreme Court for ballot language review.

Speaking with The News Services of Florida, United for Care Campaign Manager Ben Pollara expressed his relief that that push was moving forward and ahead of schedule.

“We’re way ahead of the eight-ball this time,” said Pollara. “Last time, I was totally stressed and our staff was working 18-hour days all through the holidays and this time I believe we will have effectively put this thing to bed well before Christmas.”

In 2014, United for Care and trial lawyer John Morgan had pushed a similar ballot initiative in the form of a constitutional amendment. Although the vote fell two points short of the required 60 percent, FAU professor and Florida politics expert Kevin Wagner thinks things will be different the second time around.

“Turnout in presidential years is different than the turnout in off years,” Wagner told the Sun Sentinel. “You’ll get a lot more young people, and a lot more people that only turn out in presidential years, and they’ll be a lot more likely to vote for medical marijuana.”

In an attempt to bolster their chances of succeeding, advocates have altered the language of the proposed ballot to address concerns raised in the 2014 campaign.

Some of the biggest issues raised from the last election were over the use of the term “other conditions” in the qualifying condition section of the bill, the ambiguous use of the word “physician,” and the question of whether children would need a parent’s permission to obtain a recommendation.

Under the new ballot language, “other conditions” now include “debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

The word physician is now defined as “a person who is licensed to practice medicine in Florida,” and the new ballot also clarifies that children must have the consent of a parent or guardian to obtain a medical marijuana recommendation.

Provided that the submitted signatures are valid and the bill receives approval from the state Supreme Court, organizers will still have to collect approximately 683,149 signatures in order to qualify for the 2016 ballot.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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