If anything, the movement toward legalization of medical marijuana is getting much stronger in Florida as Nov. 4 approaches, when voters will get their say on Amendment 2, the proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize medical pot.
The latest Quinnipiac University poll–the most authoritative poll on the matter–finds 88 percent of Floridians favoring medical marijuana, with 10 percent opposed, including 83 percent support from voters 65 and older and 95 percent support from voters 18 to 29 years old. The latter group was generally expected to be ardently for legalization, but its support is influential in a different way: Amendment 2 proponents are also banking on increasing younger voters’ turn-out in November to swell support for Democratic gubernatorial contender Charlie Crist.
Beyond gubernatorial politics, the poll points to support so broad that its cuts across all traditional or stereotypical dividers: young, old, Republican, Democratic, independent, black or Latino all support legalization of medical pot. Last spring the Florida Legislature legalized one type of medical marijuana for a narrow set of illnesses.
“Forget the stereotypes of stodgy old folks living out their golden years playing canasta and golf,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. “Almost nine- in-ten Floridians favor legalizing medical marijuana and a small majority says adults should be able to possess small amounts of the drug for recreational purposes. Even though a proposal to legalize medical marijuana, on the ballot this November, must meet a 60 percent threshold, these numbers make a strong bet the referendum is likely to pass,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.
So far, 21 states have legalized access to medical marijuana in one form or another.
If medical marijuana is legalized in Florida, 71 percent of voters say they would support having a marijuana dispensary in the town or city where they live, with just 26 percent opposed. That includes support from 57 percent of those older than 65, and 79 percent support from those 18 to 29.
“No ‘Not in My Backyard’ mentality here. By an almost 3-1 majority, Florida voters would allow a medical marijuana dispensary near where they live,” Brown said.
He has not heard the Palm Coast City Council speak on the matter.
Some cities, including Palm Coast, have asked their city attorneys to look into the regulation of such dispensaries, with Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts comparing the regulation of what would be legal dispensaries with measures once applied to illegal pill mills. But the proposed constitutional amendment on medical marijuana leaves regulations it in the hands of the State Department of Health, not in that of local governments.
There is some strong support for the legalization of recreational marijuana, including a 55 percent majority of support for it overall, with 41 percent opposed. But support and opposition for recreational marijuana is sharper among particular groups. Asked if they favor “allowing adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use,” men back the allowance 61-36, women back it by a much narrower 49-45 percent. Voters 18 to 29 years old are ready to roll 72-25, while voters over 65 years old (the generation that presumably had its fill of marijuana in the 1960s and 70s) are opposed, 59-36 percent. Support for recreational pot is 64-32 percent among Democrats and 55-40 among independent voters, with Republicans opposed, 56-41 percent.
Writing for ContextFlorida last week, Barney Bishop, the former president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida and lobbyist, argued that polls on medical marijuana have been misleading because polls ask voters such questions as “Are you in favor of legalizing medical marijuana?”
“On the ballot,” Bishop wrote, “voters will see the legalistic language of the amendment and a summary of it that is easy for voters to read and understand.
What they won’t see is: ‘Are you in favor of medical marijuana?'” He said when voters are polled on the ballot language, only 57 percent support the amendment. Though he did not attribute the number, Bishop was relying on one poll conducted by Gravis Marketing, which usually conducts polls for Republicans, and which was carried out by automated calls in late June, not (as with the Quinnipiac poll), with live respondents. Bishop himself noted that such polls arte problematic because a computer is not able to detect if the person answering the call is lying about his or her identity. It could be a child simply having fun on the phone. A human pollster may hear the difference.”
In fact, the Quinnipiac pol’s question regarding medical marijuana summarizes the ballot summary language. The question was: “Do you support or oppose allowing adults in Florida to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it?”
The ballot language voters will see is that Amendment 2 “Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not authorize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.”
The Quinnipiac poll was conducted between July 17 and 21, surveying 1,251 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.