Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pot Push, Chapter 2

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pot Push, Chapter 2

Article excerpt

Florida supporters are refining language for a possible 2016 ballot item, while also turning up the heat on state legislators

Orlando attorney John Morgan and the medical marijuana advocacy group he started have revamped language for a constitutional amendment they hope to have on the ballot in November 2016.

United for Care said Friday it has tweaked the wording of its 2014 proposal, which was narrowly defeated by Floridians in an early- November referendum vote. The amendment would have allowed the sale and use of medical marijuana for a variety of conditions, including cancer and glaucoma.

"I spent a lot of time and money trying to get young people out to vote," Morgan said of his 2014 campaign. "But where we really got hurt were with voters 65 and older.

"What I think I need to do better this time is talk to older voters."

Opponents of the measure used TV ads to convey claims that even minor medical conditions like headaches might lead to physician recommendations for marijuana, and that minors would have easy access to cannabis.

Vote No on 2 also suggested that convicted felons would be allowed to supply pot by acting as caregivers.

Fifty-eight percent of Florida voters in the November election cast ballots in favor of medical pot, just short of the 60 percent required for passage of a constitutional amendment in the state.

Twenty-three states plus the District of Columbia now allow medical marijuana, including a number of states that generate winter visitors to Florida: Illinois, Michigan, New York and Maryland.

Morgan and proponents say now that traditionally higher turnouts in presidential election years provide an opportunity to capture additional votes. Presidential elections also tend to draw in a wider spectrum of voters, including younger and poorer voters.

In the interim, United for Care hopes to put pressure on the Florida Legislature, and convince lawmakers to enact medical marijuana measures of their own.

That would supplant the need for a constitutional amendment, which requires nearly 700,000 signatures of registered voters in the state before it can appear on the ballot.

"We want them to see we are truly serious about going back on the ballot, and actually do something during the session," United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara said Friday.

"Our goal is not to win or lose elections," Pollara added. "Our goal is to pass medical marijuana laws. If we can do that in the 2015 legislative session, then we will not be back on the ballot, because we will have achieved our primary goal."

The Florida secretary of state has approved the group's new petition, meaning United for Care is clear to get about 70,000 signatures needed by early March.

That would require the state's attorney general, Pam Bondi, to forward the petition to the Florida Supreme Court, which verifies that the language qualifies as a potential amendment. …

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