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Medical Pot Push Resumes with Tweaks

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Proponents of medical marijuana began an encore campaign for legalization Friday, filing a rewritten ballot measure just two months after one narrowly failed to pass.

Backers of the initial constitutional amendment appeared to have a wave of support on their side, but fell short of the 60 percent threshold needed as a surge of ads emerged claiming the measure's language was riddled with holes.

They've now rewritten parts of the text in hopes of minimizing fear the new proposal would place few restrictions on those dispensing the drug, allow children access without their parent's consent, and allow people the drug for minor medical conditions.

"The language and the essence of the amendment is essentially the same," said John Morgan, the Orlando attorney who chairs People United for Medical Marijuana, and the chief financer of the legalization drive.

"What I would say is that we have tweaked or clarified positions that were constantly brought up by our opposition to help us talk more freely about the real issue, which is the legalization of medical marijuana."

Morgan said he was hopeful the Legislature might still take up the issue, rendering a ballot measure unnecessary. If it doesn't, proponents will aim to put the issue back on ballots in 2016, he said.

The amendment's opponents insisted Amendment 2, as the initiative was called, was a veiled attempt at legalized recreational marijuana. "Don't let them fool you. Amendment 2 is not designed to help the sick," they claimed.

The original ballot said patients had to suffer from a debilitating medical condition, including a number of named diseases such as cancer and "other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks."

Opponents insisted the wording meant nearly anyone could get the drug, so in the revised version, the authors said unidentified debilitating conditions must be "of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated."

Likewise, though backers say they never intended for marijuana to be made available to children without the OK of a parent, or administered by a caregiver with a history of drug dealing — two claims repeatedly made by the Vote No on 2 campaign — they added extra clauses to quell the doubt. In the new version filed with the Florida Department of State, the measure specifically says a parent's written consent is needed and that caregivers must undergo appropriate background checks.

Even with the new language, Morgan acknowledged some will never embrace the idea of medical marijuana.

"I think they'll have a whole other set," he said of the alleged loopholes in the previous ballot. "There will be people who are just against this no matter what."

Amendment 2 got 880,000 more votes in favor than opposed, representing just under 58 percent of the electorate. It had more support than any statewide candidate for office, but failed because Florida — unique with Illinois — requires a three-fifths majority to pass a constitutional amendment. That provision itself came into law under a ballot question in 2006.