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Voters Again Facing Medical Marijuana Decision

Person smoking near a window.
Wikimedia Commons

With medical marijuana already a reality in Florida, voters will decide in November whether to vastly expand the types of patients who are eligible for the treatment.
It's the second time Floridians will weigh in on a medical-marijuana constitutional amendment, with the first proposal narrowly failing in 2014 to capture the 60 percent approval required for passage.

But the evolving politics of pot, an already-established marijuana industry and increased voter turnout for the presidential election improve the odds of passage in 2016.

The proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot appears to have overwhelming support, according to recent polls. A Florida Chamber of Commerce poll found that 73 percent of likely voters endorse the measure, after 58 percent voted for the 2014 version.

Partly to fend off the 2014 pot proposal, Florida lawmakers that year authorized non-euphoric marijuana for patients with epilepsy, chronic muscle spasms or cancer. The 2014 law also set up a regulatory structure for the marijuana industry. The Legislature this year expanded the law to allow full-strength marijuana for terminally ill patients.

But supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment say the Florida law does nothing for a host of severely ill patients who could benefit from the treatment.

Backers of the initiative, now titled "Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Illnesses" and appearing on the ballot as Amendment 2, tweaked the 2014 version to address criticisms from opponents.

And it added language that would allow physicians to recommend medical marijuana for patients with "other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable" to those named in the amendment and for which the doctor believes "that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for the patients."

But critics insist the provision giving doctors leeway to recommend the treatment for unspecified illnesses amounts to "de facto legalization" of pot.