This past November, Amendment 2, which would have made it legal for those with debilitating diseases to obtain medical marijuana legally, needed 60 percent of the vote to pass. It fell short by 2 percent. It was as close as Florida has ever come to joining 23 other states and Washington, D.C., in having some form of legalized marijuana.
Still, big numbers showed up to the polls to vote for Amendment 2. In fact, more people voted for legalized marijuana in Florida than voted for Rick Scott for reelection.
And now United for Care, the medical marijuana group that made Amendment 2 possible, has officially launched a campaign to get the initiative back on the ballot for 2016.
Over the weekend, United for Care, once again backed by Orlando-based attorney John Morgan, announced that the secretary of state has approved the new petition, and as it did last time, the group is calling on supporters to sign it so it can get on the ballot for the 2016 elections.
This time around, the group is hopeful the initiative will pass. Buoyed by the 58 percent vote from last November as well as the hope that more people traditionally show up to the polls for presidential elections than midterm elections, United for Care is coming in with renewed purpose.
United for Care is also coming in knowing exactly where it went wrong in 2014.
"2016 promises greater turnout, more time to explain what the Amendment does and doesn't do, and a head start of almost 3.4 million supporters," United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara wrote in an email the day after Amendment 2 was shot down at the polls. "We are going to pass a medical marijuana law in Florida by the end of 2016. It will happen one of two ways: legislative action or another constitutional amendment."
One of the main issues opponents to Amendment 2 keyed in on was the supposed series of loopholes found in Amendment 2. These "loopholes" became the talking point for No on 2, the initiative's biggest opposition, backed by wealthy donors such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who donated $1.5 million of his own money. The group attacked the language in the initiative, saying that it was too loose and that it would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to just about anyone and that it would lead to easy access for kids.
United for Care debunked those claims through debates and TV ads, but the talking points seemed to do just enough damage to keep Amendment 2 from passing that 60 percent threshold.
"The No on 2 campaign spent $5 million in the last weeks of the campaign fabricating loopholes that didn't actually exist -- but we did not have the resources at the time to correct the record," Pollara said in a statement announcing the new petition. "Now, we will not only have more time to educate the public, and more voters deciding in 2016, we have a petition that clearly and explicitly rejects the loopholes that never existed in the first place."
The new petition will now focus on clearer language.
For example, the parental consent requirements -- which were in the original amendment -- are spelled out more specifically in the new petition. Moreover, protections are added by requiring the Florida Department of Health to verify parental consent.
The new petition also makes it clear that medical marijuana must be prescribed only for those with debilitating ailments. There's also better language addressing that negligence and malpractice are not subject to immunity under the law.
In the new amendment, the Department of Health will be specifically required to establish qualifications and standards for caregivers, including the ability to conduct thorough background checks.
The new petition, written once again by John Mills, will need 70,000 valid signatures just so the Supreme Court can review the language on the petition. It needs 700,000 signatures to then get the initiative on the ballot in 2016.
United for Care faced this same task last time and was successful through a massive grassroots campaign.
To get Amendment 2 on the 2014 ballot, United for Care collected more than a million signatures. It's hoping for the same kind of support this time around.
Anyone interested in signing the new petition can do so here. And United for Care stresses that even if you signed the 2014 petition, you must do so again this time around.
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