Florida Voters Will Get Another Chance to Legalize Medical Marijuana This Fall

A narrower version of a 2014 initiative qualifies for this year's ballot.


Jacob Sullum

In 2014 a Florida ballot initiative allowing medical use of marijuana fell two points short of the 60 percent vote required for a constitutional amendment. That initiative's supporters are trying again, and yesterday they announced that they had gathered enough valid signatures to qualify their measure, once again known as Amendment 2, for the November ballot.

"This November, Florida will pass this law and hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering people will see relief," said Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who is once again chairing and financing the initiative campaign. "What Tallahassee politicians refused to do, the people will do together in this election." A 2014 law authorizes distribution of low-THC, high-CBD cannabis extracts to qualified patients, but that system does not include any other marijuana products, and it is limited to patients with cancer, epilepsy, or conditions causing "seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms."

Amendment 2 would allow "individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician" to obtain marijuana from dispensaries regulated by the state Department of Health. It defines "debilitating medical conditions" as "cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient." That definition is more restrictive than the 2014 text, which referred simply to "other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient." Opponents of the measure argued that "any condition from back pain to trouble sleeping" might qualify, so "anyone who wants pot will get it." Morgan says "our language is stronger than in 2014."

If Amendment 2 passes, it will make Florida the first Southern state to legalize medical marijuana. Last March a Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters put support for medical marijuana at 84 percent. But early polls last time around found similarly strong support, and the actual yes vote was just 58 percent.

Opponents of Amendment 2—who in 2014 warned that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to pot-assisted rape, among other horrors—think they can accomplish something similar this year. "This so-called 'medical marijuana' amendment is just like the one voters defeated last election," says No on 2 spokesman Tre Evers. "It legalizes pot smoking in Florida under the cynical guise of helping sick people. Marijuana is not medicine; it is an illegal and dangerous drug. The fact is that wherever pot smoking has been legalized under the guise of 'medical marijuana' it has proven to be a farce, a ruse, de facto legalization."