Florida Voters to Get Another Opportunity to Legalize Medical Marijuana in 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Mar. 6, 2016) – Florida voters will have another opportunity to legalize medical marijuana in the state, effectively blocking federal prohibition of cannabis.

According to the organization United for Care, which filed the initiative petition in support of medical marijuana, enough signatures were collected to put a medical marijuana amendment on the ballot in November. A majority of voters supported a similar measure in 2014, but it was not approved because it did not reach the necessary threshold of support needed to amend the state constitution of Florida.

“This effort cost millions of dollars – but it needed to happen,” Chairman of United for Care John Morgan said, as reported by The Weed Blog. “The legislature sat on its heels. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Pam Bondi stood against us. But I told you when we came up short in 2014 that we would win the war, and we will. Medical marijuana is coming to Florida.”

The issue will appear on the ballot to voters as ‘Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions’ and the text of the proposed constitutional amendment reads, in part, as follows:

"(1) The medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or caregiver in compliance with this section is not subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law.

(2) A physician shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law solely for issuing a physician certification with reasonable care to a person diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition in compliance with this section.

(3) Actions and conduct by a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center registered with the Department, or its agents or employees, and in compliance with this section and Department regulations, shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law."

Under the ballot measure, patients would qualify to use medical marijuana if they suffered from AIDS, HIV, cancer, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, “or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.” Medical marijuana dispensaries would be authorized as well.

Because it’s a proposed state constitutional amendment, the ballot initiative will need 60 percent of the vote to pass. If it is successful, Florida will become the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. Despite federal marijuana prohibition, measures such as this ballot initiative remain perfectly lawful, and there is little if anything the feds can do to stop them in practice.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

Approval of this ballot initiative would partially remove one layer of law prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in Florida, but federal prohibition would remain in place.

Of course, the federal government lacks any legal authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

While this Florida ballot initiative would not alter federal law, they would take a step toward blocking in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing the state laws, Florida voters would remove some of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

The Sunshine State has the opportunity to join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 states now allow cannabis for medical use. With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically ending the ban.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” policy analyst Michael Boldin said.