For the second time in two years, a coalition of drug warriors bankrolled by the nation’s richest gambling peddler aims to derail an overwhelmingly popular ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. More people voted for medical marijuana than folks who voted to keep Gov. Rick Scott in office. Because Florida has a draconian law requiring that constitutional amendments pass by 60.1 percent of the vote, the campaign to make medical marijuana legal in the Sunshine State fell just short.
“We have to be more competitive on television,” says Ben Pollara, campaign manager for the pro-medical marijuana committee United For Care.
In reality, Florida health officials will likely create a system more restrictive than regulated markets in Colorado and Washington, the two states that have pioneered marijuana legalization in recent years. On September 16, a jury found Kirouac not guilty of marijuana cultivation after she used Florida’s medical necessity law as a defense. In May 2014, police arrested and charged Kirouac, who had been a medical marijuana patient in Maine, after finding 20 pot plants in her home, as well as harvested cannabis and tincture.
“And as the judge in Bridget’s case pointed out, her acquittal does not mean she is free to continue to use medical marijuana.” But Drug-Free Florida is determined to prevent Kirouac and others like her from accessing medical marijuana.
Other medical marijuana opponents include the 20,000-member Florida Medical Association. To beat Drug Free Florida’s tactics, United For Care has to raise between $2.5 million to $3 million for television and radio ads, Pollara says. Frank Orlando, a political science professor and director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, said support for the medical marijuana amendment has been growing over the last four months. Orlando also said presidential elections in Florida tend to draw out younger voters, who are more likely to cast a ballot for medical marijuana.
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