The Sunshine State might get a bit sunnier for proponents of medical pot. The Florida Supreme Court cleared a medical marijuana initiative Monday to appear on the November 2014 election ballot. The amendment needs 60 percent of the vote in order to pass. If it clears that hurdle, Florida would become the 21st state to decriminalize medical marijuana.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll revealed that 82 percent of Floridians support the legalization of medical pot in the state. But in October, state Republicans blocked the medical marijuana amendment, saying it would "mislead" voters. The Supreme Court now rejects that theory, pushing the amendment forward in a 4-3 decision which stated:
By reading the proposed amendment as a whole and construing the ballot title together with the ballot summary, we hold that the voters are given fair notice as to the chief purpose and scope of the proposed amendment, which is to allow a restricted use of marijuana for certain “debilitating” medical conditions.
We conclude that the voters will not be affirmatively misled regarding the purpose of the proposed amendment because the ballot title and summary accurately convey the limited use of marijuana, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, that would be authorized by the amendment consistent with its intent.
The campaign to get the medical pot initiative onto the 2014 Florida ballot doesn't come without a hefty price tag. In all, it's estimated to cost at least $10 million. Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, the boss of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist, has contributed at least $2.7 million to the cause. Morgan and his United for Care group secured more than 700,000 Florida residents to sign the medical marijuana petition ahead of a Feb. 1 deadline.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott says that while he is personally against the use of medical pot, he entrusts the decision to voters:
“I have a great deal of empathy for people battling difficult diseases and I understand arguments in favor of this initiative. But, having seen the terrible affects of alcohol and drug abuse first-hand, I cannot endorse sending Florida down this path and I would personally vote against it. No matter my personal beliefs, however, a ballot initiative would be up to the voters to decide.”
There's no word yet on what the 18 percent of Florida's population over the age of 65 — probably its most active voting contingent — thinks about this whole debate. However, at least one group, the Silver Tour, is advocating medical marijuana to ease elderly ailments such as joint pain and insomnia.
"I want to get some cannabis," said 83-year-old Selma Yeshion after a Silver Tour presentation. "I have pain in my back, so it would be nice. Damn it to hell, I want to try it once in my lifetime."