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Will Florida voters approve medical marijuana at the polls?

Roger Caldwell

Roger Caldwell

Will Florida voters approve medical marijuana at the polls?

By Roger Caldwell

There has been two years that proponents for the legalization of medical marijuana have tried to get their initiative approved in Florida. Everyone assumes that Florida is the Bible belt, and the majority of the residents are closed minded and conservative. But in the last five years there has been a steady influx of new folks from the north. In November at the polls there will be a constitutional amendment for voters to approve medical marijuana.

This is the beginning of the legalization of marijuana in the state, and eventually there will be a federal law that makes it legal in the country. When Attorney John Morgan in 2013, became the spokesperson and major donor for “People United for Medical Marijuana-Florida,” the campaign exploded. At this point, Attorney Morgan has spent three million dollars of his own money, and it is estimated that the supporters of medical marijuana will need another $10 million for an ad campaign to get 60 percent of the voters to approve the amendment.

Some Florida residents will say it’s about time, but there is still a large contingent of conservatives, Republicans and Democrats that believe medical marijuana is wrong. Kevin Sabet, who has worked under Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is now in our backyard. He is the director of Drug Policy Institution at the University of Florida, and he is 100 percent against legalizing marijuana in any way.

Governor Rick Scott has been ambivalent about his position on medical marijuana. “I have a great deal of empathy for people battling difficult diseases, and I understand arguments in favor of this initiative. But having seen the terrible effects of alcohol and drug abuse firsthand, I cannot endorse sending Florida down this path, and I would personally vote against it,” says the governor.

The Republican leadership in the state has also given thumbs down on the medical marijuana initiative, and Florida State Attorney Pam Bondi is a loud and big opponent of the constitutional amendment. “Any physician could approve marijuana for seemingly any reason to seemingly any person of any age, including those without any debilitating disease,” says Pam Bondi.

It will take 60 percent of the voters to approve a constitutional amendment for medical marijuana, and it appears which group that spends the most money on ads, will probably win. The media has also informed our political leadership and residents that a win for pot, is a win for more taxes for the state.

It is predicted that medical marijuana will birth a new $800 million a year industry, which would generate jobs and new businesses in the state. Marijuana is here to stay, and Florida is forecasted to be the second largest market behind California for medical marijuana.

There will be major challenges in developing an infrastructure and system for medical marijuana, but the state will benefit financially with taxes and fees. It makes no sense to walk away from an $800 million a year new business, that other states have implemented successful. It is time for the Florida leadership to get on the front end of change, where 70 percent of residents support medical marijuana.

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