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Medical pot lobby says Marco Rubio “doesn’t respect” people’s will

For years, Marco Rubio has been very clear on the campaign trail that he opposes the legalization of marijuana. But what about for medicinal purposes, as is allowed in 19 states and may again be on the ballot in Florida in 2016?

“I’ve said that I’m open to medicinal uses, of anything, particularly marijuana, and in fact, if it goes through the FDA process and you can come up with a proven medicinal benefit to that substance, I’m open to that,” the Florida U.S. senator told NBC’s Chuck Todd in an interview broadcast Sunday on Meet The Press. “I’m not in favor of legalizing marijuana. I’m not. I never have been.”

When asked by Todd whether he would use federal law to supersede states rights in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, the four states that have legalized outright use of marijuana, Rubio repeated that he thinks the federal government should enforce federal law.

“I think this country is paying a terrible and high price for the impact that alcohol has had on families, and addiction, on the destruction of marriages, homes, and businesses, and now we’re going to legalize an additional intoxicant? It’s very simple. When you say something’s legal, what you’re basically saying people is it isn’t that bad. It can’t be that bad, it wouldn’t be legal.”

His comments were rebuked Tuesday by United for Care, the political action committee attempting to get a medical marijuana initiative on the 2016 ballot in Florida. That’s despite their initiative only being about pot use by people with medical permission to do so.

“It’s unfortunate that Florida’s senior senator and leading Republican presidential contender, Marco Rubio, has taken a position in clear opposition to the rights of the states to determine their own course on marijuana laws,” campaign manager Ben Pollara said in a prepared statement. “As a Floridian, it seems to me Rubio is proactively telling our state that he doesn’t respect the will of the people. Can you imagine if a President Rubio sent federal agents to Florida to raid legal marijuana businesses and patients in the case that he became president and we passed a constitutional amendment?”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has also been outspoken on the campaign trail this summer in saying he would never permit marijuana to be legalized in the Garden State, though medical pot is allowed.

“If you needed proof that elections matter, this is it. Rubio and Christie have now made crystal clear that their intent, if elected, is to enforce federal marijuana laws in conflict with state law — and to immediately walk back the ‘hands off’ approach of the current administration,” Pollara said. “Both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have indicated that they would respect the choices of states in this regard, but they too need to clarify their positions further. And it is incumbent upon all of us — the voters — to seek and receive clear answers from our next president on these issues.”

On Monday, United for Care sent an email to its membership quoting Rubio’s remarks on Meet The Press, using it as a motivating device to have people sign their petition helping them get its medical marijuana measure on the November 2016 ballot.

The group already has more than 100,000 vetted signatures and is anticipating having their ballot language reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, possibly next month. They need more than 683,000 signatures to get on the ballot. A similar measure placed on the 2014 ballot received nearly 58 percent support, a clear majority but short of the 60 percent margin required for passage.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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