To those who support the drive to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, the path to the 2016 election commenced the moment Amendment 2 fell just short of gaining the 60 percent supermajority necessary to be added to the state’s constitution.
One could argue, though, that the journey toward November 2016 officially began Thursday, January 8, when John Morgan and United For Care submitted a revised medical marijuana amendment to the Florida Secretary of State’s office.
“Last time I did this, it was like a maze,” Morgan said. “Well, I’ve been through it once. I know how to do this. We made a lot of mistakes and we won’t make them this time.”
If the revised amendment collects enough signatures—the process for which is set to begin within the next few days—and is approved in court, the fate of medical marijuana in Florida will once again be left up to the state’s voters.
“Amendment 2 received half a million more votes than Rick Scott, more than any candidate on the statewide ballot, and the Supreme Court has seen this movie before,” Morgan said. “We learned a lot but we’re ready to go.”
Before Amendment 2 is officially added to the 2016 ballot, 68,314 signatures must be gathered from registered Florida voters. Then, as it did last year, the state Supreme Court will review the proposed amendment’s ballot language to verify that it meets certain legal requirements. Once the Florida Supreme Court approves the potential amendment, United For Care and John Morgan must collect 683,140 signatures by February 1, 2016 for inclusion on the 2016 ballot.
In a late November blog post on United For Care’s website, campaign manager Ben Pollara assured that a new petition for medical marijuana supporters to sign will be available on UnitedForCare.org within a few weeks. Despite the success in and of itself of getting Amendment 2 added to 2014’s general election ballot, Morgan said he would prefer the medical marijuana issue to be addressed directly by the Florida Legislature. Due to lawmakers’ refusal to act on or even start a discussion about the issue, however, Morgan knows that it’s up to him, United For Care, and Florida’s compassionate voters to get the job done.
Morgan, though, made no bones about this push and was upfront about the toll an endeavor like this can take on someone willing to go all-in on a cause in which he believes.
“After this, I’ll never do this again,” Morgan said. “The lesson in playing big is you set yourself up to lose big and losing big gives you humility and perspective that I didn’t have when I was trying to find my way through the woods on this the first time.”
Morgan’s drive to take one last crack at making medical marijuana available to seriously ill Florida residents was echoed by United For Care campaign manager Ben Pollara, who feels the fact that his group’s initiative came mere percentage points short of passing is reason enough to give it another shot.
“The voters of Florida clearly want a medical marijuana law and we intend to pass one, whether in the Legislature this session or on the ballot in 2016,” Pollara told the Tampa Bay Times.
There are a number of differences between the 2014 and 2016 versions of the amendment, but some of the most prominent changes include:
- A requirement that the Department of Health verify parental consent before a doctor can prescribe medical marijuana to a minor
- Language clarifying the serious, debilitating medical conditions for which medical marijuana may be prescribed
- A provision stating that doctors cannot be arrested for lawfully prescribing medical marijuana, but that they are not immune to prosecution for negligence and/or malpractice
- A provision instructing the Department of Health to establish quality guidelines for caregivers
Furthermore, the amendments lay out rules for the issuance of ID cards for medical marijuana patients and caregivers while allowing only licensed treatment centers, not private growers, to produce prescription marijuana.
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