Florida’s Democrats hope a measure to legalize medical marijuana in the state will draw people who are likely to vote for left-leaning candidates to the polls this fall.
Florida Democrats hope a measure that would legalize medical marijuana under the state’s constitution will encourage younger voters and minorities, who tend to vote more for left-leaning candidates, to get to the polls this November.
Under Amendment 2, as the legalization measure is known, medical marijuana would be legalized in the state for those suffering from nine medical conditions: cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Physicians would be able to recommend marijuana for other ailments, as well, if they decide medical marijuana would help patients more than it would hurt them. This was concerning for conservative lawmakers, who said using medical marijuana to treat menstrual cramps and back pain was just an excuse to get high.
However, since menstrual cramps and back pain have been at least anecdotally proven to improve with use of medical marijuana, the argument against legalization made by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, was largely moot.
Marijuana is not currently legal in Florida for any reason, including medicinal use, and the state has some of the harshest penalties in the country, as the mandatory minimum penalty for possession of even the smallest quantity of marijuana is up to one year in prison accompanied by a maximum $1,000 fine.
If passed, the amendment would immediately offer qualifying patients and doctors protection from prosecution or punishment in most cases. It would also would give the state’s Department of Health six to nine months to create and implement rules to specifically govern the state’s medical marijuana program.
While the amendment allows the use of more than just cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, which was proposed in the state earlier this year, and also allows patients to smoke marijuana, the amendment does not allow medical marijuana patients in the state to cultivate their own marijuana.
If the measure passes it will be historic, as Florida would be the first state in the conservative South to legalize marijuana, illustrating that the medical marijuana issue has become a bipartisan one.
Medical marijuana legalization measures have been proposed in a handful of other Southern states, especially as stories of epileptic children struggling with seizures that can be helped by the substance are shared in the media, but some states — as well as some Florida state lawmakers — are now proposing to only legalize CBD oil.
As medical marijuana legalization advocates have pointed out, however, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient THC does have a medicinal value, and for some patients to get better, they need a higher THC value in their medication.
This fall’s election may not be a presidential election, but the midterm elections are still important, especially for swing states such as Florida.
Florida’s governor’s office as well as a slew of House seats are up for grabs this fall, and as evidenced by the special House election held last month in the state, though registered Republicans only outnumbered Democrats by about 2.4 percent in the district where the special vote was held, the number of GOP-leaning voters who turned out at the polls outnumbered left-leaning voters by 8 percentage points.
According to a national survey sponsored by George Washington University and released last month, nearly 40 percent of Florida voters said they would be “much more likely” to vote in the November election if a marijuana legalization measure was on the ballot. About 30 percent reported they would be “somewhat” more likely to vote if medical marijuana legalization was on the table.
This trend of increased voter turnout falls in line with what both Washington state and Colorado experienced when the states included legalization measures on the ballots in 2012. It should be noted, however, that 2012 was a presidential election year and those states’ legalization measures were to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
What’s tricky about the Democrats’ hope that the marijuana legalization measure will bring in left-leaning voters in Florida this fall is that there appears to be bipartisan support for Amendment 2 in the state, with 7 in 10 voters across all political parties supporting medical marijuana legalization.
Though polls show that between 65 and 80 percent of Florida voters support medical marijuana legalization, not all of the political candidates do — especially not those running on the GOP ticket.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott has openly opposed the amendment, while Democratic gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Nan Rich, as well as Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie, support it.
As the group pushing for passage of the amendment, People United for Medical Marijuana, suggested, one reason Republicans may be opposed is because one of the largest groups opposed to the measure is the group Save Our Society from Drugs, whose founder, Mel Sembler, is a longtime GOP fundraiser.
Note that Sembler was appointed ambassador to Australia and Nauru by President George H.W. Bush and later appointed ambassador to Italy by President George W. Bush.
If youth and minority voters decide to not go to the polls because they feel the support for medical marijuana legalization is already high enough, their absence may result in a landslide victory for conservatives in the state. If, however, the amendment does bring younger and minority voters to the polls this fall, the predominantly Koch brother-backed GOP candidates may be in for a tighter race than they anticipated.