With voters and proponents of cannabis policy change active on the peninsula, Florida marijuana could be next up for legalization.
Although pot may not exactly be about to supersede production of oranges and family tours of Disney World any time soon, medical marijuana in Florida as well as recreational use of cannabis could be on the rise—sooner than you think.
For Florida marijuana legalization is already moving forward. In some counties, police officers have the option of issuing civil fines for pot use and possession instead of arrest.
There are multiple campaigns and organizations behind the push for legalization. One such organization is the Florida Cannabis Action Network, a grassroots group that’s looking to momentum and legitimacy through petition support.
Another is cannabis advocacy group is United for Care, chaired by influential Orlando attorney John Morgan. It was sited in a story from the Orlando Sentinel that the group faced funding challenges in their effort to raise awareness and gain a position for medical cannabis on the 2016 presidential ballot.
They will need all the support they can get, too, because it is absolutely going to be a close battle for Floridians.
Just last year, in 2014, a ballot proposal to amend Florida marijuana laws failed to pass. The ballot measure, called Amendment 2, received 58 percent support from voters while 60 percent in favor was required for the amendment to pass. Had the proposed amendment been successful, it would have made marijuana in Florida legal for medicinal use.
United for Care also hired PCI Consultants—for an approximate $3.5 million—to assist in garnering support and gathering signatures to change legal access to medical marijuana Florida residents need.
Funding the opposing side of the cannabis legalization debate, Sheldon Adelson, a casino tycoon in Las Vegas, has indicated that he will continue to assist efforts to quell the burgeoning legal marijuana industry. Last year he provided a substantial donation of $2.5 million.
Of course, ultimately, any such pro-marijuana interest group would like to make all marijuana available—that is to say, not just medical marijuana Florida patients and residents need for better health and true quality of life, but also for any adult who, in accordance with his or her right to responsibly use cannabis, chooses to consume the plant.
Watch this neat recap of Florida’s ballot battle for legal marijuana.
But Florida marijuana rights activists and coalitions will have to first surmount challenges faced during last year’s campaign.
For example, the Florida Medical Association went ahead claiming their belief that Amendment 2 posed a “public health risk for Floridians.” Other groups, such as No on 2 and Drug Free Florida, voiced opposition in print and on television.
Their voices might be loud, but with 2 percentage points short on the ballot, it is not a large bridge to gap. This year, United for Care plans to first collect 100,000 signatures to gain a review from the Florida Supreme Court.
After that, and after much campaigning and campaign dollars, it’s just 600,000 valid voter signatures to sit on the 2016 ballot.