Could Florida Be Next for Medical Marijuana Legislation?

Update Jan 2014:

Supporters say they have gathered 1.1 million signatures for, so it is all but assured medical marijuana will be on the ballot for Florida voters to consider this November. Amazing work by United for Care in getting it done!

With all the momentum behind this effort, some pundits are even speculating that this initiative could help Charlie Crist get elected Governor. He supported the initiative, and voter activists behind this are now a real force in Florida electoral politics!

 

When it comes to medical marijuana legislation (or even recreational marijuana), there are two basic ways for such de-regulation to take place: through legislation (with lawmakers making the final decision) or through a ballot measure (with voters making the call). Last year, a bill that would have allowed medical marijuana never even got a hearing with lawmakers and this year they’ve made it clear they aren’t interested in legalizing pot. But, Florida voters have another opinion and they may be the ones to spur the changes in marijuana laws.

Could Florida Be Next for Medical Marijuana LegislationIn a survey earlier this year, 70% of respondents said they would likely support a medical marijuana system in Florida. The larger-than-normal number of baby boomers could boost numbers as well, as this aging population was first exposed to marijuana many decades ago and some are now looking for alternatives to the prescription drug regimen that often goes along with the aches and pains of aging.

Nationally, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center, 77% of Baby Boomers believe that marijuana has legitimate medical uses. One man, Robert Platshorn, has created a roadshow specifically to cultivate this attitude, traveling the country on The Silver Tour, educating seniors about the benefits of medical marijuana.

In order to get medical marijuana on the ballot, supporters need 683,149 signatures on a petition before the Feb. 1, 2014 deadline.  In addition, even if passed by voters, 60% of state legislators would have to approve of it. In other words, there is a lot of work to do.

Governor Rick Scott opposes medical marijuana—not surprising considering his former job as a chief executive of a for-profit healthcare company. The Florida Medical Association also opposes it, as does most of the “Republican-dominated political establishment” in the state.

Those driving the campaign for medical marijuana legislation realize they will have to “sell” a tightly regulated program in order to gain the needed-support of lawmakers and to fend off intervention from the feds. Stuart Taylor Jr. of the Brookings Institution has said that if the state can keep the medical marijuana program strictly controlled it is far less likely to draw the attention of federal drug enforcement.

In the meantime, marijuana laws in Florida remain strict and attitudes towards it in the justice field remain negative.

The pols may be against it, but strong activist groups like the Florida Cannabis Action Network are fired up and confident that they can get this done by November 2014.

 

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Renter is a freelance writer and editor who writes about criminal justice issues.

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