Florida: Are You Ready to Legalize Medical Marijuana in 2016?

While the state of Florida continues to pussyfoot around with the implementation of a CBD-only law, the stage is being set to to legalize a full-scale medical marijuana program in 2016. United For Care, whose proposal to legalize the leaf for medicinal purposes failed by a narrow margin in last year’s November election, is now preparing to launch the second coming of the initiative in hopes of bringing medicinal herb to the Sunshine State once and for all.

Although the campaign has not been formally announced, several reports have indicated that Orlando attorney John Morgan and his band of supporters, collectively known as United for Care, will begin grinding the pavement later this month to collect the signatures required to earn a spot on the ballot in the next presidential election.

The biggest obstacle, so far, is that the group has not been able to raise the funds needed to run a successful campaign—ballot initiatives require millions of dollars to bring the effort to fruition. An article in the Orlando Sentinel suggests that the group has only raised about $50,000 for the 2016 effort.

However, the organization is still reportedly sitting on a portion of its financial arsenal from 2014. The next step is rebuilding the momentum for the cause—collecting the necessary signatures, while putting the initiative in a position to gain the additional 2 percent of the voters that it was unable to secure last year.

Florida law dictates that voter initiatives receive 60 percent approval in order to become law. Last year’s Amendment 2 secured only 58 percent.

United for Care organizers are enthusiastic about the 2016 campaign, but Ben Pollara, the group’s campaign manager, explained that there is a lot of work to be done before this measure is considered a done deal. First, the organization must finish collecting the 100,000 signatures needed to earn a new review by the Florida Supreme Court—part of the required protocol for ballot initiatives. Next, they will unleash a massive signature collecting campaign, hiring professional crusaders, to secure an additional 600,000 valid signatures required to earn a voice in the next election.

If this sounds expensive, well, you should know that it is. Last year, United for Care spent nearly $4 million alone just paying a team to gather signatures. Fortunately, the group has some wealthy friends, including John Morgan, who reportedly contributed the majority of the funds to operate last year’s $8 million campaign.

Even though the finances for the group’s second attempt at bringing medical marijuana to the state are not exactly in order, they are expected to pull it together very soon in preparation for the battle that is undoubtedly ahead. Unlike last year, the proposed amendment in which United for Care will try to pass through the Florida Supreme Court comes with some amended language that could make it easier for them to swallow. For example the phrase “Certain Medical Conditions” has been changed to “Debilitating Medical Conditions,” and  minors are now required to present written consent from a parent before a physician is allowed to recommend the use of cannabis.

Of course, once the proposal receives preliminary approval from the state, anti-drug coalitions will come slithering out of the palm trees to put the kibosh on the campaign. Last year, a group known as “No on 2” surfaced with a slanderous campaign against medical marijuana, which forced the legal forces of United for Care to send a cease and desist letter over the group’s television smear campaign.

Even the Florida Medical Association, the state’s largest band of medical professionals, announced their disapproval in 2014 by claiming “the unintended consequences of Amendment 2 are serious and numerous enough for us to believe they constitute a public health risk for Floridians.”

Despite the likelihood of the state’s usual suspects standing in opposition of United for Care’s latest proposal, in the end, it will be the majority of the state’s voters who will have the final say on this issue.

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