United For Care: Medical Marijuana Nears 2016 Florida Ballot, Gathered Over 666K Signatures
By Allison Nielsen, Sunshine State News // January 28, 2016
Less than 20,000 Signatures Still Needed
(SunshineStateNews.com) – An amendment to legalize medical marijuana is likely to make the 2016 ballot in Florida, according to the latest petition numbers from the Florida Division of Elections.
As of Monday, an amendment to legalize medical marijuana for those with “debilitating” medical conditions had gathered over 666,000 valid petition signatures, putting the campaign less than 20,000 signatures away from being placed back on the ballot this year.
Any proposed amendment needs to collect at least 683,000 validated petitions to be placed on the ballot.
This is the last week any amendments can be considered for this year’s vote.
People United for Medical Marijuana (United For Care), a pro-medical marijuana group largely led by uber attorney John Morgan, has shouldered the responsibility of collecting enough signatures to get the amendment on the ballot next year.
“I am confident we have turned in enough petitions to make the ballot by the deadline next week—and once we do, we are almost certainly going to be Amendment 2 again,” United for Care director Ben Pollara said.
United For Care’s constitutional amendment petition would allow for the medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or caregiver. It would also prohibit physicians from being subject to criminal or civil liabilities under Florida law for issuing a prescription for medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana would only be allowed for use for those with “debilitating” medical conditions which would include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and for other conditions which a physician feels using medical marijuana would outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.
That means the average Joe wouldn’t be able to go into a pharmacy and get a prescription unless it was approved by their doctor.
Amendments need to receive 60 percent of the vote in order to be made law in Florida.
This wouldn’t be the first time Floridians have seen medical marijuana put up for a vote. In 2014, United For Care ran the same campaign to legalize medical pot, fighting tooth and nail to pass the initiative, but the measure ultimately fell short by two points, and it was back to the drawing board for the group.
Ben Pollara said the reason the campaign didn’t get the necessary numbers to pass was due to a lack of funding and a negative publicity campaign by anti-Amendment 2 groups.
“They managed to overwhelm certain parts of the state with lies, and we simply didn’t have adequate funding to push back hard enough,” Pollara wrote in an email Monday.
In 2014, State Attorney General Pam Bondi fought hard against the proposed amendment, but Bondi has stayed relatively quiet on the measure this time around — so far.
As of April 2015, 23 states had legalized medical cannabis in the U.S. while seven other states had pending legislation to legalize the drug for medical use.
Marijuana is still considered illegal under federal law.
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