Two years after a referendum to legalize medical marijuana in Florida fell short by a few percentage points, voters in the Sunshine State on Election Day approved a constitutional amendment that gives patients with debilitating illnesses such as AIDS, cancer and Crohn’s disease access to cannabis. The referendum, with 69 percent of state precincts reporting results, passed by an astronomical 70 percent.
Florida is now the 26th state in the union to legalize medical marijuana.
John Morgan, the Orlando lawyer who put in $8 million of his own money to get out the vote and obtain the necessary signatures to twice put the question voters on the ballot, hailed the victory as a big win for Florida’s sick and suffering.
“The election was a means to an end,” Morgan said. “The end was always, always, always delivering compassion to those who could benefit, those desperate for the relief medical marijuana can bring.”
“With broad support across all demographics, voters in Florida approved Amendment 2 by a landslide. These results are a victory, not just for common sense public policy, but for patients all across the state who will now have access to a safe, effective treatment for a number of debilitating ailments,” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s Executive Director, in a statement.
Medical marijuana won despite the Drug Free Florida Committee, the anti-pot group led by St. Petersburg real estate developer Mel Sembler, spending more than $3.7 million in negative advertising to scare voters into believing the amendment would lead to dispensaries on every block in every city. In 2014, the Drug Free group flooded the airwaves with ads attacking the ballot language, which prevented United For Care and other advocates from reaching the 60.1 percent threshold required to pass an amendment in Florida. Still, more than 57 percent of the state electorate voted for medical marijuana.
To avoid any confusing ballot language this time around, proponents made sure to list the specific ailments people must suffer from in order to receive cannabis treatment. They also wrote in a requirement that doctors must obtain parental consent to administer medical marijuana to children. The measure mandates that Florida health officials create the system for producing and dispensing marijuana to patients that Pollara says will be more regulated than California and Colorado when those states legalized cannabis for medical use.
The state already has a low-THC, high-CBD medical-marijuana program in place that was enacted by the state legislature in 2014. It is only accessible to patients with cancer or illnesses that cause chronic seizures or severe spasms. However, only five companies selected by the state were able to qualify to manufacture and produce the CBD pot as a result of a strict set of requirements, including being in business in Florida for at least 30 years.
The Florida amendment would expand the pool of patients to include people with the following illnesses: epilepsy, glaucoma, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.