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Medical Marijuana Initiative Gets Needed Signature to Make November Ballot, Pending Court Clearance

| January 24, 2014

Coming to a pot near you. Possibly. (Dank Depot)

Coming to a pot near you. Possibly. (Dank Depot)

Medical marijuana proponents cleared a major hurdle Friday by surpassing the number of signatures required to make it on the November ballot.

But it’s still up in the air whether voters will get to choose if they want Florida to join 20 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical marijuana.

The Florida Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments about the ballot initiative last month, will have final say as it decides whether the proposal meets constitutional requirements and does not mislead voters.

With 710,508 validated signatures statewide — 27, 359 more than the required 683,149 — and reaching signature requirements in the bare minimum of 14 congressional districts, People United for Medical Marijuana beat a Feb. 1 deadline for submitting petitions to the state.

“We are absolutely thrilled about reaching the required number of signatures. This is a historic day for Florida. Hopefully, Floridians will not only get a chance to vote on medical marijuana this fall but will pass it and bring relief to the thousands of Floridians that are desperately asking for it,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, the group working for People United for Medical Marijuana.

The push for the medical marijuana initiative is being led by Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist’s boss, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan. Morgan and his law firm have contributed at least $2.7 million, including nearly $1 million in loans last month, to the effort. But that’s just a drop in the bucket. Pollara estimates that, if the initiative makes it onto the ballot, the campaign could cost at least $10 million. Like all other constitutional proposals, the amendment would need at least 60 percent of the vote to pass.

Republicans as well as law enforcement and parts of the business community have lined up against the proposal. Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders oppose letting doctors prescribe pot, and Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawyer argued against the proposal before the high court last month.

Many of the justices’ questions focused on the difference between the ballot summary’s reference to “debilitating diseases,” which would appear before voters, and the amendment language which says doctors could write pot prescriptions for a “debilitating medical condition.”

Solicitor General Allen Winsor, representing opponents, argued that the ballot title and summary that would appear on the ballot could deceive voters about the scope of the amendment. Winsor argued that the ballot language is misleading because it wrongly leads voters to believe that fewer people could get access to pot when doctors instead would have much more liberty to determine who qualifies.

But former House Speaker Jon Mills, a constitutional lawyer who authored the proposed amendment and argued on its behalf before the court, said the proposal was written to give doctors the ability to make the best decision for their patients.

Scott has repeatedly said he does not want to make pot legal because of the risks of abuse.

But on Friday, the governor toned down his message, saying he would defer to voters.

“I have a great deal of empathy for people battling difficult diseases and I understand arguments in favor of this initiative. But, having seen the terrible affects of alcohol and drug abuse first-hand, I cannot endorse sending Florida down this path and I would personally vote against it. No matter my personal beliefs, however, a ballot initiative would be up to the voters to decide,” Scott said in an e-mailed statement.

Jenn Meale, a spokeswoman for Bondi, said the attorney general’s office is waiting for a ruling from the Supreme Court on the ballot language and would refrain from commenting Friday.

Morgan insists he was inspired by his own family’s suffering. He said medical marijuana eased the excruciating pain and discomfort his father experienced as a result of emphysema and esophageal cancer.

But some critics have questioned Morgan’s true motives. Putting the pot question on the November ballot where his friend and fellow Democrat Crist might also appear may help the former governor. Polls have shown widespread support for the proposal, but the support is even higher among younger voters. Medical marijuana could help drive those voters, who might otherwise stay home in a non-presidential election, to the polls.

The strategy is similar to what Republicans used in previous years with proposals banning gay marriage, said Florida Atlantic University political science professor Kevin Wagner. Wagner said that could also be why Republicans like Bondi are fighting the initiative in court.

“It’s a political play in which neither side cares about who wins but what’s on the ballot,” Wagner said.

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida

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20 Responses for “Medical Marijuana Initiative Gets Needed Signature to Make November Ballot, Pending Court Clearance”

  1. Diana L says:

    Medical marijuana is a no brainer. IMHO.

  2. jenn says:

    yey lets gooooo im fully for it i hope it goes threew

  3. Mary Cannady says:

    It is a shame that the need for medical marijuana has to be political.

  4. Midred says:

    I’m old now and live in pain all day and night. I truly hope that Florida FINALLY comes to their senses and choices to legalize Medical Marijuana for suffering citizens.

  5. HMMM says:

    ABOUT TIME. BRING FLORIDA THE FLOWER!!

  6. Genie says:

    I think the abuses in Florida would be huge. If you want pot legally, move to another state. This one has about all the problems it can handle.

  7. Lefty Wilbury says:

    “Thank you” to all who signed the petition. We worked together to bring this issue to the voters.
    Barring any AG shenanigans, we’ll get to cast our ballots.

  8. barbie says:

    It’s about time. It’s a PLANT, not a “drug”. The only reason “reefer madness” was invented and this plant made illegal was to protect the fortunes of those who felled trees to make paper, rather than use hemp.

    Today, it’s the liquor and beer industries, underwriting the reefer madness propaganda.

    SO tired of the lying and the scare tactics.

    • Reaganomicon says:

      It was made illegal because mexican nationals brought it to the US recreationally after the mexican revolution, and border politicians pushed for its criminalization to screw with immigrants that they were scared were going to take all of the jobs. Sound familiar?

  9. Justin says:

    Just legalize it already.

  10. m&m says:

    With this passing, it’s like Obama all over again,, Morgan and Morgan and Crist ruining this state like Obama has done to the contry..

  11. Genie says:

    You can barely get an aspirin after major surgery in this state. I’m wondering how this one can work without great abuse.

    I have several doctors who want to see every pill I am on, NOT just the names, but actual container. Not easy to get what you need out there.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Genie, the problem in this country is that once an individual is “treated,” and I use the word with irony, there’s no end to the assault of “legal” drugs, most of them ruinously expensive, some of them addictive, few of them effective enough to justify the assault, but all of them immensely profitable to their drug-pushers. Your suggestion that it’s difficult to get an aspirin after surgery is right out of the flat-earth society’s book of urban legends.

      The fear over marijuana, which has more redeeming values than most Bible verses and legal drugs combined, is that it would be a simpler, more accessible palliative to some of the nation’s most suffering patients (think cancer’s chemo torture etc.) on one hand, while on the other its accessibility and legality will show the lie to years of obscene police-state tactics that have done nothing to make us safer and everything to make us look like East German nostalgists. On marijuana’s “ills” and benefits, I’ll take a pothead’s judgment and demeanor over a cop’s or a judge’s any day.

      • Lefty Wilbury says:

        I hope to develop the ability to express my thoughts as eloquently as you do.
        I am luxuriating in the greenest of envy!

  12. HMMM says:

    it is a valuable crop that our state needs to adopt. there will be people who “abuse” the system or plant, just like any other pharmaceutical. however, pot is not deadly nor addictive. there are people who really, really, really do need it for multiple uses. so what if some abuse the system, its only pot. and as long as those who really need it gets it, even if it only helps one person out, it’s worth it. more than one would be helped. a lot more. it’s time to take the sunglasses off and let the sun shine how it’s supposed to, and let the plant heal those who need it to. stop the suffering. legalize the pot.

  13. Bubba Buck says:

    Beer and Whiskey made this country…Not some gosh darn weed. We need more drunks and more car accidents. Let’s build a few whiskey distillers down here in FLORADUH !

  14. Outsider says:

    I don’t have a problem with truly sick people using marijuana if it helps them cope with pain, but I’m not convinced this isn’t just a first step towards broad legalization. I’m not totally against de-criminalizing marijuana ONLY from the standpoint that I don’t want my money wasted to arrest, prosecute, and house potheads. I’d much rather see it go to arresting and punishing real criminals, including the death penalty for murderers. Overall, I think it’s a sad commentary on our society that so many people are excited that they may be able to soon get stoned legally. As a non drinker and non smoker I find, for myself and my family members, other more constructive forms of entertainment: my daughters include a competitive gymnast and horse rider. I will admit that I get high every time I go to work; nine to 10 miles high and 600 miles an hour. It’s much more worthwhile and satisfying than getting stoned, and the pay is much better, too.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Is all marijuana the same? If so why are there so many different types and names for specific brands. Next question is it still a “safe plant” even though the fertilizer and soil it’s grown in is chemically enhanced as well as the plant/leaves itself? If it’s all the same why there a such thing as skunk weed or just bad weed?

  16. Bill says:

    I am all for legalizing it in full in FLA. BUT to me this is just a scam idea ALL or NOTHING with it IMO.

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