Florida: Medical Marijuana Narrowly Fails At The Polls

FloridaMarijuana2014

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida's voters have narrowly rejected the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. A big majority of state voters voted in favor of medicinal cannabis, but state law requires a 60 percent majority to amend the Florida Constitution.

The Associated Press has projected that Amendment 2, Florida's medical marijuana constitutional amendment, which needed 60 percent of the vote to pass, has narrowly failed. With nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, about 57 percent of voters voted yes.

The campaign was among the most expensive ballot measures in the country, reports the Associated Press, with millions spent on both sides. Twentieth-century Reefer Madness myths were pulled out and aired as fact as part of the misleading tactics used by the No On 2 side, funded largely by Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Florida lawmakers had passed a very limited, CBD-only "medical marijuana law" earlier this year to allow non-psychoactive strains of cannabis for epilepsy patients. But Amendment 2 supporters argued a more inclusive law was necessary to make medicinal cannabis available to a broader group of patients.

Covered conditions would have included cancer, AIDS, Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s "or other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient," but would not have allowed patients to operate a motor vehicle under the influence, consume marijuana in public or on the job and would not have required insurers to pay for the treatment.

Beyond the political repercussions -- which, at the very least, mean that it will be years before many patients in the Sunshine State have safe access to cannabis -- the saddest part of Amendment 2's failure is the fact that patients, hundreds of them, and maybe thousands, will die as a result of this unenlightened vote. People for whom medical marijuana could have represented a better quality of life, an increased ability to be in the moment with families and loved ones, may now never get that chance.

"While it's disappointing that patients in Florida won't be able to find legal relief with marijuana just yet, tonight's result does show that a clear majority of voters in the Sunshine State support a new direction," Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority told Hemp News Tuesday night. "We didn't get the 60 percent needed to pass medical marijuana as a constitutional amendment, but patients and their supporters will keep pushing until the law reflects what most voters want.

"The campaign this year faced several key challenges, including that it took place during a midterm election in which turnout dynamics don't favor marijuana reform," Angell said. "Next time medical marijuana is on the ballot, organizers should put patients and medical professionals at the forefront of the campaign rather than relying on a well-meaning but much less sympathetic political donor as the chief spokesperson."

“A tremendous majority of Floridians voted to legalize marijuana for medical purposes today – and that’s what really matters notwithstanding the fact that the initiative will not be implemented,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Today’s vote is a confirmation of medical marijuana's broad support across the political spectrum and sends a powerful message not just to Florida legislators but also throughout the South and even nationally.”

“This is a loss for the sick, for the elderly, and for all those who care about public safety,” said Special Agent Raymond Strack (Ret.), a Florida resident and spokesperson for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “The only people who have benefitted from this election are the violent gangs who continue to make money on marijuana’s prohibition.”

Florida is the only state that requires 60 percent to pass a ballot initiative. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson contributed $5 million to stop Amendment 2, the largest contribution ever by a single donor to oppose a drug policy initiative.

Most of Adelson's $5 million was spent on inaccurate TV ads that eroded what had been consistently strong support. Every poll until the past month had shown between 63 to 85 percent support for the initiative among Florida voters.