Election Day: November 4, 2014
Florida is one of the country’s most conservative states. It holds onto these conservative values as tightly as possible and this year’s election solidified this fact with the shut-out of a medical marijuana initiative that would have legalized the herb for medical benefits. The battle was fought with vigor, but alas the results fell short of opening up Florida as one of the first southern states to have a medical marijuana provision for those in need.
It is interesting to note that prior to the election last month nearly 90 percent of Florida residents were in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. So what went wrong on Election Day?
For starters, Florida requires a super majority for ballot measures to pass. A super majority is considered to be a percentage is 60 percent or higher. Voters just missed that amount and finished with a 57 percent majority voting in favor of the bill. 3 percent was the difference between legalized medical marijuana and the continuation of prohibition within a medical setting.
The bill, known as Amendment 2, would have made it legal for Floridians to use the herb in treating diseases such as HIV, Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s disease, and any other medical condition that a physician deems treatable with medical marijuana. This would have put an end to the needless suffering of thousands of Florida residents, and would have also likely brought new income into the state in the form of new residents and businesses.
Interestingly, Amendment 2 and the campaign that backed it faced quite a bit of opposition, including one prominent SuperPac backer Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is a well known casino owner who has backed the campaigns of several GOP members. Adelson put $5 million towards opposing the measure and all but fully funded its attack. Although support was high in early May, by Election Day support had waned, thanks in part to attack ads funded by Adelson and the campaign against medical marijuana.
Moving forward only one question remains, how can medical marijuana supporters in Florida help get this law passed in future elections? With so much money on the opposing team it seems as though supporters are facing an uphill battle towards legalization. But things may not be as bleak as they seem.
After the new Amendment was shut down in polls, the Governor of Florida passed a bill called “Charlotte’s Web” that made it legal to use medical marijuana hybrids, herbs devoid of psycho-active components, in treating illnesses such as epilepsy and cancer. This ruling is a significant stepping stone towards full medical marijuana legalization.
The passing of this law comes after a young Colorado girl’s family has been treating her rare and severe form of epilepsy with marijuana. The strain that the family uses contains zero psycho-active components so the little girl feels no “high” from its use.
Despite the setbacks, the medical marijuana community in Florida continues to push for new legislative action in coming elections. By educating the public it is their hope that individuals will understand how important it is to legalize this incredible herb in their home state. The United States has seen a serious upheaval of marijuana laws over the past 2 election cycles, and with continued support throughout the nation it seems that it is only a matter of time before the entire country legalizes it. However, gaining support in southern states is critical for the effort to win over. States like Florida are highly conservative, so if support can be found there it can be found virtually everywhere.
While the battle for medical marijuana rages on in southern states, northwestern and northern states have moved towards legalizing it for recreational use. Alaska, Oregon and Washington D.C. all voted to legalize recreational cannabis during the same election that Florida struck down medical use. This may come as shock to southern states, but it is nonetheless an indicator of the future. Even states like Florida will not be able to forever hold onto their conservative notions that marijuana has no beneficial use within the human body.
As the evidence continues to mount against those in opposition to cannabis use, more ballot measures will pop up and before the country realizes it marijuana will be as commonplace as tobacco and alcohol, without the adverse effects of course.
Unfortunately things did not go as planned. Floridas State attorney General filed to challenge Amendment 2, which shot it down. In 2016, Florida is looking to spark things up once again to make this time go as smooth as possible. As many wealthy people have been seen to back up Floridas love and hate marijuana relationship, 2016 will yet see another Medical Marijuana Amendment in Florida.