Medical marijuana Archives - Page 4 of 28 - Florida Politics

Medical marijuana Amendment 2 gets 60 percent in almost every county

They love them some medical marijuana in the Florida Keys, and in the college towns of Gainesville and Tallahassee.

But then, Floridians seem to like the idea throughout the Sunshine State of making medical marijuana a state constitutional right.

Amendment 2, which rolled to a huge victory Tuesday, was approved by at least 60 percent of voters in 63 of Florida’s 67 counties, falling short of the statewide 60 percent approval threshold only in four sparsely populated counties: Dixie, Lafayette, and Holmes in the Panhandle, and Hardee in southwest Florida. And it barely fell short in those.

Statewide, Amendment 2 won with 71 percent approval of 9.1 million votes cast for Tuesday’s election. The issue got 6,596,615 yes votes in unofficial returns posted by the Florida Secretary of State. It needed 5,467,718 yes votes to pass, meaning it was approved with more than 1.1 million votes to spare.

The county that most embraced the idea of medicinal products processed from marijuana is Monroe. The home to the Florida Keys and the Everglades’ lowlands gave an 80 percent thumbs-up to Amendment 2. Not far behind were Alachua and Leon counties, homes to the University of Florida, Florida State University, and Florida A&M University, which offered 77 and 76 percent approvals, respectively.

And not far behind them were a whole host of counties, including some of Florida’s most urban. Broward, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Duval, Orange, and Hillsborough counties all offered at least 73 percent approvals, swinging hundreds of thousands of votes each into Amendment 2’s convincing margin of victory. Among big-city counties, only Miami-Dade failed to top 70 percent, but still registered 68 percent approval.

There really weren’t any hot spots of opposition. Even traditionally conservative counties such as St. Johns, Flagler, Clay, Lee, Sarasota, Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Bay all offered 70 percent approvals for Amendment 2.

As for Dixie, Lafayette, Hardee, and Holmes, the lowest support among those was in Holmes, at 57 percent approval. If every county had to top 60 percent [and they don’t; the 60 percent threshold is only for a statewide tally], then Holmes fell 290 yes votes short; Hardee, 158; Lafayette, 34; and Dixie, 8.

Email insights: The People speak, compassion arrives with Amendment 2

Medical marijuana backer John Morgan put out an enthusiastic email Tuesday night after Election Day results showed Florida voters overwhelmingly supported Amendment 2.

“Nearly 4 years. Two elections. Over 2 million petitions from Florida voters. $8 million of my money. 18,238 donations from 8,287 supporters like you. Over $10 million spent against us, fighting compassion,” Morgan wrote.

“This is it. WE did it. YOU did it.”

Amendment 2 had received more than 71 percent support with 90 percent of the vote in, far beyond the 60 percent support constitutional amendments need to pass in the Sunshine State.

Two years ago, the amendment failed after picking up just under 58 percent of the vote.

Morgan said, however, that this campaign was “never about winning an election.”

“The end was always, always always delivering compassion to those who could benefit, those desperate for the relief medical marijuana can bring,” he wrote.

Morgan closed out the victory email with the following stanza:

“The will of the people is the best law.

I couldn’t agree more.

The People spoke tonight.

For almost four years I’ve been telling you two things.

One. Compassion is coming.

Two. BELIEVE!!!!!!!

Tonight, I also have two messages for you.

Compassion is HERE!!!!

And, I will always deliver this message:


Amendment 2 for medical marijuana sweeps the polls with a huge win

Florida’s Amendment 2, allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients who need it, swept the polls with a 70-to-30 split in Tuesday’s election.

Last time out, it got 58 percent of the vote, but because it required a “super majority” of 60 percent, it didn’t pass.

Supporters of the amendment say it’s a sensible alternative medicine and can greatly help patients in need, offering a natural alternative to drugs that may have harmful side effects, and alleviate pain for cancer patients and others suffering debilitating conditions.

Ben Pollara, campaign manager for Amendment 2, said the idea of the amendment wasn’t only about medical marijuana — it’s also about respecting the doctor-patient relationship.

“This is about taking politicians out of the doctor-patient relationship,” he said. “We’ve had a long statewide conversation about this. I believe the people of Florida are compassionate, and that they believe a decision should be made by a doctor and patient together, even if that decision includes marijuana. People trust their doctors to have the treatment that’s right for them, whether that’s dieting and exercise; narcotics and opiates; or even marijuana. That decision should be made in the context of the doctor-patient relationship, not by Tallahassee politicians.”

Opponents said the amendment is a “scam” intended to legalize marijuana under the guise of doing it for medical reasons.

Tom Angell, chairman with Marijuana Majority, applauded the amendment’s passing.

“This is a major tipping point: With Florida’s decision, a majority of states in the U.S. now have laws allowing patients to find relief with medical marijuana, and these protections and programs are no longer concentrated in certain regions of the country like the West and Northeast.

“It looks like medical cannabis will get more votes tonight than whoever ends up winning the presidential and U.S. Senate races, and that shows just how mainstream this issue has become. The next president and the new Congress need to get to work right away in 2017 on modernizing federal law so medical cannabis patients and the businesses that serve them in a growing number of states don’t have to worry that the DEA could knock down their doors at any minute.”

2nd try at medical pot amendment gains support in Florida

A proposed amendment to the state constitution to legalize medical marijuana has gained widespread support in Florida two years after falling just shy of passing.

Most state polls have support for Amendment 2 above the 60 percent threshold needed for approval. A similar measure was on the 2014 general election ballot and received 58 percent.

Supporters say they have listened to concerns from two years ago and changed the amendment’s wording to tighten oversight over the industry and protect children from harm.

In the meantime, the Florida Legislature has passed two measures allowing limited use of medical marijuana, though delays in implementing them have fed support for an amendment that would make it more broadly available.

Opponents say there still isn’t enough research proving the benefits in medical treatment. They also warn that the state will be overrun with pot shops and that children could illegally gain access to the drug.

If approved, Florida would be the 26th state along with the District of Columbia to legalize the marijuana plant for medical use. Florida is one of 16 states where only part of the marijuana plant is used.

“The legislature has failed to expand and open up the entire plant to use and only a narrow scope,” said Dennis Deckerhoff of Tallahassee, who says he will vote yes. “If the Legislature doesn’t want to do it, now it will be up to the voters.”


The Florida Legislature approved the use of medical marijuana for patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, chronic seizures and chronic muscle spasms in 2014 along with five distributing organizations. It was expanded earlier this year to include patients with terminal conditions under the Right to Try Act, and three more licenses were authorized once the patient registry reaches 125,000.

The amendment would widen the list of illnesses eligible for marijuana prescriptions, adding such ailments as post-traumatic stress disorder, AIDS and glaucoma.

So far, only three organizations have received distribution authorization. Two dispensaries are open in Tallahassee and Clearwater but home delivery is available statewide. Some counties and cities have passed zoning moratoriums on allowing dispensaries to open until they can do further research.

The state registry now has authorized 129 doctors and 470 patients, Department of Health spokesman Brad Dalton said.


John Morgan, who leads United for Care, notes that the latest amendment allows marijuana to be prescribed only for debilitating medical conditions. It also adds provisions that require parental written consent for patients who are minors, and requires caregivers to register with the Department of Health.

The measure mandates identification cards for caregivers and patients and puts the department in charge of regulating medical marijuana – as the state law also has done.

A lot of the rules and regulations – from how the marijuana is grown to regulations on how it can be transported for in-home delivery – were passed by the Legislature this past March would also apply under the constitutional amendment.

Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, said that the state’s two-year delay in getting low-THC cannabis to consumers has pushed support for the amendment.

“If anything the benefit of the past two years is that public opinion has moved forward a lot,” he said.


Dr. Jessica Spencer, who is the Policy Director for No on 2, says there is no evidence that marijuana works as medicine and that the industry would be more difficult to manage if it is endorsed under the Florida Constitution.

“We need to be careful when we’re looking at constitutional amendments that they are perfect. This is not perfect,” Spencer said during a recent debate in Orlando.

Anti-amendment literature by opponents depict medical marijuana as candy and note that pot shops could be set up near schools.

Kenneth Bell, a former Florida Supreme Court justice, said he is not opposed to medical marijuana but that it should be handled by the legislative branch.

“The Legislature has already acted a couple times and this does not take into account some unintended consequences that could take place,” he said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Dana Young’s voting record blasted by her SD 18 opponents in debate

Debating for the first time in the state Senate District 18 race, South Tampa Republican Dana Young had her voting record pummeled by her three more-liberal male opponents at the Reeves Theatre on the University of Tampa campus Wednesday.

Young has maintained a fairly conservative record in her six years representing House District 60, a record her Democratic first-time opponent, Bob Buseing, has said is out of the mainstream of the voters in SD 18 which, like HD 60, encompasses South Tampa and much of western Hillsborough County.

Young has moved up in House leadership during her tenure, and is currently majority leader. She’s also raised more than a combined $2.3 million in the race, between her own campaign and her political committee, “Friends of Dana Young.” With just six days before the voting stops, her appearance on Wednesday was the first time she has met her opponents for a debate. And they were ready to attack her from the get-go.

“Dana Young wants to hide her record as a career politician,” said independent candidate Joe Redner in kicking off the forum, indicating what was in store for her and the audience for the next hour-plus. “She wants to hide that she takes millions of dollars from every special interest pulling the strings.”

Buesing followed suit, offering an aggressive take on Young’s stance on virtually every issue raised by the UT students in the audience. Seconds into his opening statement, he announced he was opposed to fracking, and immediately criticized Young for voting for the measure in this past session.

Young’s record on fracking has been seized upon by her opponents and environmental groups this election cycle. She has insisted that her support for Florida HB 191 the past winter was NOT a pro-fracking vote, a stance she maintained throughout the debate.

Critics have claimed she voted against allowing local governments have their autonomy on whether they want to ban fracking, but Young said she believed a statewide ban was the only legitimate way to handle the issue, because “our aquifer does not know county lines.”

“I’m not worried about the counties that pass bans on fracking, I’m worried about the counties that don’t,” she said.

That answer failed to mollify Redner, who has placed television ads criticizing Young on the environment. He said her fracking vote was done in a “slick way that career politicians do,” his voice dripping with disdain. And both he and Buesing referred to a complaint made by environmental groups that while the bill would have required fracking companies to disclose to the state all chemicals they used, but if the formulas were considered trade secrets, they wouldn’t have been available to the public.

“It seems like we’re all trying to out-hate fracking [more] than the next guy,” Young countered, saying that the other candidates had not studied the bill.

On guns, Buesing said he opposed a bill that failed to advance in the Florida Senate last session that would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on college campuses.

Young took the offensive when it was her turn, citing statistics that one out of four women in college will be the victim of sexual assault. “I support the right of myself and other women to stand up and protect ourselves against men who would seek to do us harm.”

Buesing responded by saying the college campus which Young’s daughter attends, Clemson, does not allow guns on campus. “If she thought the only safe place was a place where there are guns on campus, why is she sending her daughter to Clemson University?”

Sheldon Upthegrove, the fourth candidate in the race, brought his perspective as a veteran of the Afghanistan conflict to the discussion. He said he supported concealed guns on college campuses, but only after a citizen passed a marksmanship test. But he disagreed with Young regarding feeling safe by carrying a gun, saying self-defense classes should be considered first before using a firearm.

“It’s insanity. Guns kill,” snarled Redner when it was his turn. He said citizens should be able to maintain firearms at home, but not out on the streets.

On the issue of medical marijuana, all four candidates said they support Amendment 2 on next week’s ballot that would legalize the substance for those with certain treatable diseases, and two of them, Redner and Upthegrove, support outright legalization. Redner again talked poignantly of how the herb helped him when he was receiving from Stage 4 lung cancer, and Young said her husband was diagnosed with cancer several years ago and had to contend with chemotherapy and radiation,  but did not use pot to alleviate his pain. “I believe anyone in that situation should be able to make a choice with what they wish to do with their body,” she said.

When asked about reforming Florida’s campaign finance laws, Buesing said, “I hate it,” saying that with outside groups, he has been outspent on a three-to-one ratio.

“There is too much money coming from dark money groups, like the ones that are supporting Mr. Buesing,” Young said, eliciting shrieks from the audience. Young called out the group Florida Strong, who this week alleged Young’s votes helped to pad her personal fortunes since her time in elected office. “They don’t have to disclose their donors, where my donors are all disclosed for the world to see.”

Those comments set off her opponents.

“So how much have you collected, Dana, $3 million from those upstanding donors?” asked Redner sarcastically, adding that, if elected, he’d work to pass the toughest campaign finance laws the state has ever seen.

“I find it funny that Dana says there’s too much money in politics, which in this race, she has more money than … at least a couple of us,” Upthegrove said, who said he thought there was too much money in politics.

In his concluding statement, Buesing read from various Tampa Bay Times editorials and opinion columns that have criticized Young and the third-party groups for some of their statements on Buesing’s background as an attorney with Trenam Kemker.

Afterwards, Young said the encounter was “interesting,” adding “that’s politics.”

Buesing said “I win this hands down, if it’s about the issues.”

Election Day is now just five days away.

medical marijuana

Backers release ‘intent’ statement for medical pot amendment

The team behind this year’s medical marijuana amendment has released an 11-page “intent” memo for voters to “understand the purposes” of the initiative.

“Voters should vote for an amendment fully understanding the intent of the drafters,” said the document, obtained by on Monday. “Fostering voter understanding is the central purpose of this memo, and we do so by expressing the intent of the individuals who drafted the language.”

The proposed change, which will be Amendment 2 on the November general election ballot, seeks to create a state constitutional right to medical cannabis in Florida. An internal poll recently showed 74 percent support; amendments need 60 percent approval to pass.

In 2014, a similar amendment fell two points short of adoption, despite many polls showing it would pass in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections. Law enforcement groups, many in the drug treatment community, and several legislative leaders continue to oppose the initiative.

Generally, the 2016 amendment will allow people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others.

The memo was written by main amendment supporter and trial lawyer John Morgan, Dean Emeritus of the University of Florida law school Jon Mills, Drug Policy Alliance legal director Tamar Todd and Amendment 2 campaign director Ben Pollara.

The format of the memo is annotative, further explaining the proposed language, including “the limitations of this amendment.”

For instance, the analysis says the amendment “does not affect the current statutory prohibition on the operation of a vehicle, aircraft, train, or boat while under the influence of marijuana. The Legislature may pass additional laws regarding operating motor vehicles under the influence” of medicinal marijuana.

It “does not change federal law, under which marijuana is currently prohibited, but which the Justice Department has stated it does not intend to devote resources to prosecute marijuana use complying with state medical marijuana states in most cases.”

The amendment “does not require that the smoking of medical marijuana be allowed in public, …  in schools, corrections institutions, detention facilities, and places of employment.”

The memo says “no insurance provider or government agency will be required to pay for expenses related to the use of medical marijuana,” and a “doctor remains potentially liable for other ethics violations or malpractice committed while treating a qualifying patient.”

“This Amendment does not require or need any legislative implementation to take effect,” the document says. “However, the Legislature may pass laws that further the intent and purposes of this amendment, and the Legislature may pass laws that otherwise expand access to marijuana. The Legislature may not pass laws that would be contrary to the purpose or nullify this Amendment.”


Jimmy Buffett encourages Floridians to vote no on solar power amendment

Listen up, Parrotheads.

Jimmy Buffett released a video weighing in on two ballot amendments over the weekend. Buffett encouraged Floridians to vote no on Amendment 1, a solar power initiative, and yes on Amendment 2, the medical marijuana initiative.

“It’s obvious what’s going on,” said Buffett in the video. “Vote no on 1.”

Amendment 1 is backed by the state’s major electric companies, and outlines the rules for solar power in Florida. It would put existing law dealing with the rights of homeowners and businesses to own or lease solar equipment into the state constitution.

Opponents to the amendment have blasted the organization behind the amendment for using deceptive tactics. And last week, the Miami Herald reported that Sal Nuzzo, the policy director for the James Madison Institute, described the utility-backed amendment as “political jiu jitsu” to persuade voters to support restrictions on solar expansion.

Buffett threw his support behind the medical marijuana amendment, saying he used it for medicinal purposes after an accident in Australia. He told supporters it is a “great cure.”

“Medical marijuana — duh,” he said.

The proposal would allow people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

Both amendments need 60 percent of the vote to become law.

Business owners replace idealists in legal-pot movement

Business owners are replacing idealists in the pot-legalization movement as the nascent marijuana industry creates a broad base of new donors, many of them entrepreneurs willing to spend to change drug policy.

Unlike in the past, these supporters are not limited to a few wealthy people seeking change for personal reasons. They constitute a bigger coalition of business interests. And their support provides a significant financial advantage for pro-legalization campaigns.

“It’s mainly a social-justice movement. But undoubtedly there are business interests at work, which is new in this movement,” said Kayvan Khalatbari, a one-time pot-shop owner and now head of a Denver marijuana consulting firm.

The donors offer a wider foundation of support for the marijuana-related measures on the ballot next month in nine states. The campaigns are still largely funded by national advocacy organizations such as the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project and the New Approach PAC. But those groups are less reliant on billionaire activists.

On the other side, legalization opponents are attracting new support from businesses as diverse as trucking, pharmaceuticals and even gambling.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to pass ballot initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., followed in 2014. The result is a bigger pool of existing businesses that see expansion potential in more states authorizing use of the drug.

Take Darren Roberts of Boca Raton, Florida, co-founder of High There!, a social network for fans of pot. He donated $500 this year to a campaign to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Florida. Roberts is also encouraging his customers to donate to legalization campaigns in their own states.

“I would say it’s a combination of both the philanthropic social interest and the potential financial interest,” Roberts said.

All five states considering recreational marijuana — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — have seen more money flowing to groups that favor legalization than to those fighting it. The same is true in the four states considering starting or reinstating medical marijuana — Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota.

The donors who contribute to anti-legalization efforts have changed, too.

Some deep-pocket donors who drove opposition campaigns in years past are opening their pocketbooks again.

Casino owner Sheldon Adelson of Nevada, for example, gave some $5 million in 2014 to oppose a medical-pot measure in Florida. This year, as his home state considers recreational pot and Florida takes a second look at medical marijuana, Adelson has spent $2 million on opposition in Nevada and $1 million to oppose legalization in Massachusetts.

Other casinos are donating to Nevada opposition efforts, too, including MGM Resorts International and Atlantis Casino & Resort. Nevada gambling regulators have warned that marijuana violates federal law.

Some new opponents have also emerged, moving beyond the typical anti-pot base that includes law enforcement groups, alcohol companies and drug-treatment interests.

A pharmaceutical company that is working on a synthetic version of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, Insys Therapeutics Inc., has given at least $500,000 to oppose full marijuana legalization in its home state of Arizona.

The company did not return a message for comment on the donation. Company officials said in a statement last month that Insys opposes the Arizona ballot measure because marijuana’s safety has not been demonstrated through the federal regulatory process.

Other new names popping up in opposition disclosures include U-Haul, which gave $25,000 to oppose legalization in Arizona, and Julie Schauer, a Pennsylvania retiree who gave more than $1 million to a group opposing legalization. Neither returned messages seeking comment on their donations.

Smaller donors to opposition campaigns say they are hopelessly outgunned by the young pot industry, but are giving out of a sense of duty.

“Everyone’s talking about it like it’s a done deal, but I can’t sit by when I’ve seen firsthand the destruction that marijuana does to people,” said Howard Samuels, a drug-treatment therapist in Los Angeles who donated some $20,000 to oppose recreational legalization in California.

Samuels and other marijuana opponents insist that the pot industry cynically hopes to get more people addicted to the drug to line its own pockets, comparing pot providers to tobacco companies.

But marijuana-industry donors insist that they are simply carrying on a tradition started by the tie-dye wearing drug activists who pushed legalization long before there was any business model attached to it. They insist they would contribute financially even without any money-making potential.

“When a movement becomes an industry, of course the advocacy picture gets shuffled,” said Bob Hoban, a Denver attorney specializing in marijuana law and a $1,000 donor to the Marijuana Policy Project. “It shifts away from activists to more traditional business interests, because the skill sets don’t exactly transfer.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Karen Basha Egozi: Medical Marijuana Amendment 2 is about compassion

karen-basha-egoziFor 45 years, the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida has been on a mission to accelerate therapies that stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.

With 400,000 Floridians living with epilepsy, we’ve had a lot of work to do.

One of our guiding principles is our commitment to physician-directed care. Simply, we believe that licensed medical doctors are best equipped to help their patients make important medical decisions, including treatments and medications. Doctors know their patients best.

But today, not all of Florida’s epilepsy patients have all treatment options available to them from their physicians. That’s why the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, along with the National Epilepsy Foundation, supports Amendment 2.

Some progress has been made in the past few years — for instance, Charlotte’s Web cannabis oil is now selectively available for some with severe epilepsy.

However, about one-third of people with epilepsy suffer from uncontrolled or intractable seizures, which can cause injury, disability — and even death. For those with drug-resistant epilepsy and uncontrolled seizures, medical marijuana may be an important, viable option not currently available under Florida law.

Under a state-regulated program, with high standards of patient care, and where a qualified treating physician believes the benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the risks for their patient, Amendment 2 makes legal access possible.

This is a very important, difficult, and personal decision that should be made by a patient and family working with their qualified treating physician.

Seven out of 10 doctors and the American College of Physicians want medical marijuana available as one treatment option, and 24 states already allow its use.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment for epilepsy, a condition one in 26 Americans will develop at some point in their lifetime. And there is a reason why some Floridians living with the toughest forms of epilepsy are turning to medical marijuana, when other options have failed.

Ultimately, this is about compassion.

Floridians with severe forms of epilepsy deserve a choice.

They deserve care. And they deserve compassion.

The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida supports Amendment 2, because nothing should stand in the way of patients gaining access to potentially life-saving treatment under the direction of qualified physician care.


Karen Basha Egozi is CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.


Carlos Trujillo just says ‘no’ to medical marijuana Amendment 2

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo said Thursday voters should say “no” to Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.

Trujillo expressed concerns on enforcing the amendment and also warned edible marijuana could pose a danger to Florida children.

“Amendment 2 would be a disaster for Florida,” Trujillo said. “We already know from states like California that this pot candy is extremely deceptive to children and 2,000 pot shops are the last thing Florida needs. Worst of all, though, if Amendment 2 passes we won’t be able to fix it in the Legislature. It will be a permanent change. I urge all Floridians to vote no on Amendment 2!”

Christina Johnson, the spokeswoman for the VOTE NO on 2 campaign, thanked Trujillo for coming out in opposition to the amendment, and called the proposal “nothing more than a scam.”

Amendment 2, backed by People United for Medical Marijuana, has polled favorably with Florida voters since pollsters started tracking the 2016 attempt, with one recent survey showing 77 percent of voters in favor of the proposal.

In 2014, the medical marijuana fell two points short of the required 60 percent total for adoption, despite most major polls showing it would pass in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections.

As of Oct. 7, People United’s total fundraising had about $750,000 in the bank, while Drug Free Florida, the principal committee opposing the amendment, had about $380,000 on hand.

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