Medical marijuana is facing a tough fight in Florida, where Tea Party politicians in state government are trying desperately to keep it off the ballot. But the effort got some good news recently.
A new Quinnipiac University poll released Nov. 20 shows the vast majority of Floridians support medical cannabis. Fully 82 percent of Florida voters said they think adults should be able to use marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor’s prescription. The results were similar across every category surveyed.
Florida has been a heated battleground for medical marijuana in recent months. John Morgan, a wealthy trial lawyer and activist from Orlando, is leading an effort to put the issue on the ballot in 2014. His supporters are collecting the required 683,149 signatures by a February deadline, and he faces a review hearing before the state Supreme Court Dec. 5.
Opposing him at that hearing will be several high-profile Republicans in state government, all of whom say his ballot summary and title are misleading. They include state Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz.
“We firmly believe the wording of this amendment is not about legalizing marijuana for serious medical illnesses, but rather creating a path in our Constitution for marijuana shops on every street corner,” Weatherford said. “The ballot summary is misleading and the impact of this amendment is far, far greater than John Morgan and his supporters would like the public to know.”
The ballot language lists several disorders as examples of “debilitating medical conditions” that could be treated with medical marijuana. They include cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, hepatitis C or “other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”
That last clause, opponents say, could allow doctors to prescribe to anyone, which would somehow lead to illegal dispensaries on every corner. The meaning of the language seems rather clear, but Morgan’s opponents apparently don’t believe Florida voters are smart enough to make sense of it.
Bondi, for her part, accused Morgan of being too broad in his proposal.
“The amendment would make Florida one of the most permissive states in the country,” she wrote in a brief on the proposal. “Unlike most other states’ narrow and limited programs, this proposal would allow anyone of any age to use marijuana for any reason, so long as they found a physician to say that the benefits would outweigh the risks.”
But it may not matter. If the Supreme Court lets Morgan continue and he gets his measure on the ballot, it’s very likely MMJ will win regardless of the opposition.
“If the folks who want to legalize medical marijuana in Florida can get their proposal on the ballot, they are overwhelmingly favored to prevail next November,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute.