Supporters of medical marijuana in the Sunshine State passed a major milestone in January, saying they’ve collected enough signatures to get MMJ on the ballot this year.
United for Care, the group behind the petition drive, announced Jan. 15 that they had gathered 1.1 million voter signatures, 61 percent more than the 683,189 they need to get medical pot before voters Nov. 4. So far, the state has certified more than 450,000 signatures, making it highly likely the petition will meet this requirement.
“This is an enormous achievement,” said Ben Pollara, United for Care’s campaign manager, in an email to supporters.
But it isn’t the only the only hurdle activists have to clear. The state Supreme Court must approve the language used in the proposal’s ballot summary. That decision is based on whether the summary is clear to voters rather than whether the court agrees with the constitutional amendment.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has challenged that language before the justices, arguing that it’s misleading because it gives doctors too much discretion in recommending medical weed. She’s supported by Gov. Rick Scott and other Tea Party Republicans in state government who have vowed to stop medicinal cannabis.
The pro-MMJ campaign is led, and largely financed, by Orlando attorney John Morgan. His law firm currently employs former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running to retake that office as a Democrat.
Morgan countered Bondi’s accusation by saying it was clear to voters that doctors would make the ultimate decision based on the severity of patients’ conditions. The amendment would not make pot widely available, as she claims, he said.
The court heard arguments in December. Justices have until April to decide whether the initiative will move forward. If it does, at least 60 percent of voters must approve it. Recent polls in the state suggest that’s the likely outcome.
Pollara told activists to “shift this now into campaign mode” and asked for volunteers and donations to “educate the millions of Florida voters who will hopefully be allowed to have a choice in November.”
Morgan has been pushing hard for medical pot in Florida for several years. He became a believer when his father was dying from esophageal cancer and was helped by weed. His brother, a quadriplegic, also benefits from the drug.
Morgan, the only major donor to his campaign, has blanketed media markets up and down the state with ads and become the sole public face of the movement. Nonetheless, critics have accused him of using MMJ to help Crist beat Scott in November. Morgan told the Orland Sentinel he leaves it to voters to make up their own minds.
“Cancer and debilitating diseases, they don’t pick political parties,” he said.