Battle of the Ballot: Will FL Legalize Medical Marijuana in 2016?
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 08/29/2016 in Medical Marijuana Legalization
In November of this year, patients and voters alike, will again vote on whether or not to legalize medical marijuana, in Florida — Florida came extremely close to legalizing medical marijuana in 2014, until Amendment Two fell short, losing by only a slight margin, but now it’s back to battle the ballot again, in 2016.
This article is an account of Florida’s journey towards medical marijuana legalization and why 2016 could just be the year it, finally, happens.
2014: The Majority Speaks
While hopes are high for the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida for 2016, the state came very close to legalizing it back in 2014. That election saw the majority of voters — 57.5 percent of them, to be exact — support legalization. Unfortunately, the state of Florida requires a supermajority of 60 percent or higher to add an amendment, so the initiative was narrowly defeated. This defeat was doubly crushing because of the rollercoaster ride of public support for legalization: early polling indicated that as much as 88 percent of the voting public supported legalization during the Summer of 2014.
However, it wasn’t long afterwards that Vegas tycoon Sheldon Adelsen spent over $6 million dollars to create a series of ads to scare the public regarding medical marijuana legalization. His ads criticized the vague langage of the legalization legislation: that bill specifically asked that medical marijuana be available to patients who suffered from “debilitating medical conditions” such as cancer, Crohn’s, and Parkinson’s. However, it also added that medical marijuana be available for “other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”[Adelsen argued that such language was a slippery slope towards prescribing medical marijuana for almost any serious medical condition.
Other opponents of legalization took this ball and ran with it, with some opponents alleging that legislative loopholes would allow minors access to marijuana. Collectively, these attack ads and allegations deflated that once soaring public support for medical marijuana, dropping it down to “an average of 57.3 percent” in polls–which turned out to be a very accurate prediction. However, hopes are high for the 2016 election season: the wording of the bill has been tightened, positive ads are being created…and, perhaps most powerfully, medical marijuana has become available in Florida months before the election, but only to select patients.
While Amendment 2 was narrowly defeated, some more specific marijuana-related legislation did pass in 2014. The Florida Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 was signed by Governor Rick Scott after being passed by the state legislature. Why did this act succeed where Amendment 2 failed? The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act was designed to only provide assistance to patience suffering from particular cancers, epiplepsy, and seizures. The Act was later expanded to include those suffering from terminal illnesses. The marijuana available to these patients is actually low in THC and comes mostly in pills or injections for the patients, making it very medicinal in nature: use of this does not produce the “high” typically associated with marijuana.
The first of this medical marijuana was made available for sale in Florida in late July, less than four months before Amendment Two is up for another vote. Although the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act severely limits both the marijuana sold and the patients it is available to, some are optimistic about the impact existing medical marijuana sales will have on Amendment Two voting. After all, most of the attack ads and arguments against Amendment Two targeted the fears of voters, playing up the idea of marijuana as a dangerous drug that will somehow poison minors and other patients. These fears have helped fuel the harsh Florida marijuana laws. Now, however, these voters have months to see how medical marijuana is helping some of their most afflicted fellow citizens find comfort, peace, and happiness, so hopes are high that voters will support the initiative to make it available to more patients in need, throughout the state.
Amendment Two: Round Two
What else makes Amendment Two different this time around? New wording makes it absolutely clear that parental consent would be required before any minor could use state-sold marijuana. The new wording also helps clarify exactly what qualifies as a “debilitating condition,” ensuring there are no seeming loopholes. Finally, the amendment clarifies that doctors will be limited to how many patients they can use marijuana to treat and that they are not immune to malpractice lawsuits if they are negligent in how they prescribe it. In short, the new amendment is functionally very similar to the 2014 amendment, but takes great care to ease the concerns that skeptical voters voiced last time. Between easing skeptics, public support of the existing Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, and hopes that the presidential election will draw more younger voters than last time, Amendment Two has a fighting chance to win this second round.
If you are a patient living in Florida, who qualifies for the low-THC medical cannabis program, find a qualified medical marijuana doctor, and book a medical marijuana evaluation, today.