Medical Marijuana Rejected: What Went Wrong, Where to Go From Here

Amendment 2 got more votes than Rick Scott, Jeff Atwater, and Pam Bondi. More Floridians voted yes on 2 than they did no. Yet, Florida remains a state without legalized medical marijuana. Simply because it couldn't get those final two percentage points to push it over the top.

What did Amendment 2 in was, not surprisingly, demographics.

Sixty-three percent of those 65 years of age or older voted no on 2. That came down to 25 percent of the vote. Not shockingly, it was the younger voters who came out in force for Amendment 2, with 79 percent of the 18-to-29 demo voting for the initiative to pass.

Yet it wasn't enough. Because the amendment needed 60 percent to pass.

And Florida is the only state that requires 60 percent to pass a ballot initiative.

Now Florida has become the largest state to reject medical marijuana, even as 23 other states and Washington, D.C., have passed some kind of law legalizing the use of medical cannabis.

On Tuesday, D.C. voters elected to make it legal for people to possess marijuana for recreational use. Oregon, meanwhile, voted to make it legal for people 21 or older to possess, manufacture, and sell marijuana.

Despite the loss, medical marijuana proponents are holding their heads up high. They fought a battle against big-money agents and a relentless campaign that was driven mostly by misinformation and fear-mongering.

United for Care's John Morgan -- the Orlando-based attorney who made it his personal crusade to get Amendment 2 passed -- looked at the bright side of things.

"We may not have passed Amendment 2 tonight, but make no mistake: Tonight was a victory in the fight for medical marijuana in Florida," Morgan said in a statement released late Tuesday night. "The idea that marijuana is medicine and that those suffering and in pain should not be made criminals received a larger share of the vote than the winner of the last six gubernatorial elections and every presidential campaign in Florida for decades."

Brian Franklin, a consultant for United for Care, echoed Morgan's sentiments:

According to exit polls, it would seem the main issue with Amendment 2's loss came down to messaging and, as we pointed out above, demographics.

The No on 2 folks drove home the narrative and talking point that legalized medical marijuana would mean that kids could get their hands on weed without parental consent.

While that talking point was less-than-truthful, the point seemed to hit home for folks who were married.

According to the exit poll numbers, married voters backed Amendment 2 by 53 percent, as opposed to unmarried voters who backed it by 73 percent. This seems to suggest married voters may have been scared off by No on 2's message about kids getting their hands on pot.

Could the defeat of the amendment discourage young people from voting next time around? That remains to be seen. But Morgan has already challenged reelected Gov. Rick Scott and AG Pam Bondi to look at the turnout and the numbers.

"Tallahassee politicians can ignore polls and ignore activists," he says. "They cannot ignore a clear majority of Florida voters. We will not be ignored. The governor and the leadership of the House and Senate must listen to the people who gave them their jobs. They must act on this issue. They must pass a medical marijuana law in the 2015 session that serves the hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians who are desperate for one."

Medical marijuana was as close as it's ever been to being legalized in Florida. But it would seem the older generation and the message from No on 2 was what kept it from getting passed. That and that lousy 60 percent threshold Florida requires.

"We've built a movement that will keep building until we secure compassionate care for the patients who need it," United for Care Campaign Manager Ben Pollara said in a news release.

Clearly, the fight isn't over quite yet.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph