Ben Pollara: If Legislature fails, Amendment 2 will be back on ballot in 2016

In November, Amendment 2, which would have allowed the use of medical marijuana in Florida, garnered just under 58 percent support. It needed 60 percent to pass.

While falling short of passage, medical marijuana received a larger share of the vote than has decided the previous eight gubernatorial elections in Florida. The proposal got more than a half million more votes than Gov. Rick Scott and more votes than any statewide candidate on the 2014 ballot.

But, as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want.” And the constitutional amendment process being neither horseshoes nor hand grenades, 58 percent was not a victory.

This issue now is clearly a major part of the

political and legislative dialogue in our state. But there was a time in the not-too-distant past when medical marijuana was a taboo topic.

Two individuals stood up during that time to advocate for medical marijuana when no one else had the courage to do so: John Morgan, who is now widely known as the face of the Amendment 2 campaign and Rep. Matt Gaetz.

During the 2014 legislative session, Gaetz did what many had previously thought impossible: crafted a medical marijuana bill that Scott signed into law.

I have criticized that law (known as “Charlotte’s Web”) on many occasions. I continue to believe that without significant revision, it will fail to serve the patients it was intended to help. But I have also said that it was an extraordinary first step and a shocking acknowledgement from the Legislature that marijuana is medicine and that it helps relieve suffering.

None of that would have been possible without Matt Gaetz in the House, and his father, then-Senate President Don Gaetz.

The campaign that Morgan and I led did not participate in the legislative push that Matt Gaetz undertook. We had our own fight.

But that won’t be the case in the next session.

Both opponents and proponents of Amendment 2 said during the campaign that a medical marijuana law should be passed legislatively. We agreed then, but believed it to be impossible.

And in the wake of voters’ support for Amendment 2, we agree even more so now.

We plan to go to the 2015 Legislature and work with state leaders to pass a law that a majority of Floridians have asked for.

When we do so, we hope that Matt Gaetz and others like him will work with us to pass a law acceptable to Scott and the leadership of both houses.

We also feel such a great responsibility to suffering Floridians and their families who are desperate for a medical marijuana law that we must simultaneously plan to bring the issue back to the voters if the Legislature fails to act.

So while lobbying Tallahassee on legislation, we will begin a new petition drive to get on the 2016 ballot.

Those who said medical marijuana should be passed legislatively were not wrong. And we’re going to do whatever we can between now and the end of the 2015 session to do just that.

Ben Pollara was the campaign manager for the organization that advocated for the passage of Amendment 2 in the 2014 general election. Column courtesy of Context Florida.


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