Could medical marijuana turn Florida blue in 2014?

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - This past Monday, the Florida Supreme Court approved a ballot measure to make medical marijuana legal in the state. The ruling was split 4-3 between liberal and conservative judges. Now Florida's voters will decide the issue this November.  

As recently as December, the ballot initiative looked doomed with only roughly 120,000 of the 683,000 needed petition signatures collected. But with one week still to go, United for Care turned in 1.1 million signatures, with the needed amount verified last week.

United for Care's website says the "United for Care Campaign is run by People United for Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) - an organization formed by Kim Russell, whose grandmother - ill with glaucoma - would not break the law, despite the medical benefits that marijuana could offer her condition."

United for Care is chaired by attorney and activist John Morgan, and managed by Ben Pollara, a "veteran in Florida political affairs and advocacy." According to the organization, "Recent polling shows that over 70 percent of Floridians support the legalization of medical marijuana in our state."  

But when looked at with the 2014 elections in mind, the ballot initiative may also serve as a "get out the vote" tool. David Adams and Zachary Fagenson at Reuters write: "Democrats believe it could energize their base in a midterm electoral season that generally results in low turnout, while polls show even a majority of Florida Republicans support medical marijuana use."

They go on to say the current tea party favorite Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for re-election in the Sunshine State, strongly opposes the ballot initiative and stated that he will vote against it. Gov. Scott's main challenger, and former Florida governor, Charlie Crist supports medicinal marijuana and has been a public proponent of the effort to get the initiative on the ballot for 2014. The fight for medicinal marijuana "could set the stage for a political battle in a state that is both a harsh enforcer of drug laws and a major pot producer," the Reuters commentators write.

Reid Wilson at the Washington Post writes that many Republicans fear the medicinal marijuana initiative is nothing more than a "Trojan horse for the Crist campaign." According to Wilson, Republicans fear that the amendment will push turnout among younger progressive voters, who obviously will be voting Democratic in November.

With Florida's gubernatorial race this November being the only one in a big swing state, the medicinal marijuana amendment may bring about a Democratic victory with the election of former governor Crist.  That would be a big blow to Republicans leading up to the 2016 presidential campaign.

Photo: Medical marijuana cultivation in Oakland, Calif. Rusty Blazenhoff CC 2.0

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  • The real, "hidden" reasoning behind the Florida GOP's resistance to legalizing medical marijuana, even though 82% OF VOTERS ARE FOR IT, can be explained, at least from one angle, by legal marijuana in Florida being a "clear and present danger" to ALCOHOL industry sales and profits, and also a potential loss of GOP party and candidate campaign financing from the entrenched alcohol industry in Florida, which is dominated by GOP-aligned owners and corporations - Industry lobbyists are surely putting the pressure on the GOP to take a "tough stance" against this issue, with will surely affect their quasi-monopolistic industry for the worse..

    The upside for Independents and Democrats in Florida will be a huge turnout of younger, liberal-minded voters in the next election, due to having the medical marijuana (and future legalization for all) issue on the ballot, which should also ensure Charlie Crist being elected as a by-product.

    Again we see the reluctance and short-sightedness of the GOP to embrace legalization as yet another GREEDY, SELF-SERVING move by party officials who DO NOT REPRESENT the wishes of the majority of their constituents, and a decision that goes against even the most basic common logic.. (But whoever said logic was a core competency of Republicans in general?)

    Posted by AlcoholLoversInFL, 02/22/2014 7:42pm (6 months ago)

  • african americans are far more likely to be incarcerated for marajuana that others. The drug war is the center of what meshel alexander calls "the new jim crow." this needs to be at the center of the legalization issue.

    Posted by bruce bostick, 02/06/2014 8:13am (7 months ago)

  • Summer of 1994 I worked drug interdiction and we spent two million of tax payers dollars to confiscate and destroy only a half million worth of pot. I've been for legalization ever since. I would rather see the end to the black market and organized crime involvement in favor of a regulated, taxed industry. Too, we could have a safer product.

    Posted by Ed Hodges, 02/02/2014 10:12pm (7 months ago)

  • Is medical marijuana really a youth issue? Especially in Florida, with its dramatically climbing population of persons over 40.
    Statistics from the American Cancer Society, for example, show a very high number of cancer cases for the state of Florida. Medical marijuana can benefit cancer patients who are experiencing nausea during chemotherapy and help ease their high anxiety.
    There are 2.7 million people in the U.S. with glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. There are claims that medical maijuana use can lower intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. However, its use can be less effective than medicines prescribed by an eye doctor.
    I am raising this because I think that older Floridians or example could benefit from medical marijuana. But I am aware that there are some backward forces in the state who would fight against peoples' health and wellbeing.

    Posted by Barbara Chicago, 01/30/2014 4:35pm (7 months ago)

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