Marijuana legalization may be coming to Florida in 2016. The issue will be on the ballot in November for voters to decide.
Through a proposed state constitutional amendment, an advocacy group named United for Care wants to legalize medical marijuana. After circulating various petitions over the last several months, the group received over 1 million signatures and got an unofficial confirmation from the Florida Division of Elections that it is now up to the voters to decide the legalization issue.
Once the agency issues a formal certification on February 2, the “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Conditions” will be listed on the ballot as Amendment 2. A similar marijuana legalization initiative was voted on in 2014, but did not reach the required 60 percent approval needed to pass.
“Compassion is coming,” United for Care Chairman John B. Morgan said in a statement. “This November, Florida will pass this law and hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering people will see relief. What Tallahassee politicians refused to do, the people will do together in this election.”
One Florida lawyer claims pot is already legal in Florida. Attorney Ian Christensen operates a company called Health Law Services that issues “patient ID cards.” These medical marijuana cards suggest Florida law “allows the use of cannabis as medicine” as long as it is on a doctor’s order.
While Florida legally defines cannabis as an illegal drug, Christensen bases his claim on various appeals court cases that overturned criminal convictions for people that smoked weed out of “medical necessity.” He cites one particular case from 2013 where Manatee County prosecutors decided to drop charges against a suspect named Robert Jordan that grew marijuana for his terminally ill wife.
Another attorney, Michael Minardi, won a case last year using the medical necessity defense. However, he says the defense shouldn’t be relied on as security against a felony drug conviction and Christensen is improperly advising clients.
“[Health Law Services] is continuing with this practice and still issuing cards. And it causes a severe issue. It’s sending the wrong message.”
Minardi says there are other companies out there besides Christensen’s. Another company named Cannabis University of Florida is treading in a very gray area when they tell people there are ways to get around Florida marijuana law.
Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, says any company that issues medical marijuana cards is a scam and makes it harder for groups like his to get lawmakers to take the issue seriously.
Renee Petro supports medical marijuana legalization in Florida. “There should be no why. It should be when and how… And now,” she told ABC Action News.
Petro’s 13-year-old son, Branden, was diagnosed with a rare disease related to epilepsy that causes uncontrollable seizures. She says the only treatment that stops his seizures is medical marijuana.
“He has been on 16 different pharmaceuticals, and they don’t work. Not only does he still have seizures, but we deal with the side effects; suicide, thoughts of suicide, hallucinations, insomnia, anxiety… The list goes on.”
Petro discovered that cannabis helped relieve her son’s symptoms after a two-week trip to California. While there, he consumed the plant and began to act normally. It wasn’t until two months after the trip that he experienced another seizure.
Petro is working diligently to educate people on why cannabis should be made available to patients and is encouraging everyone she can to vote in favor of medical marijuana legalization in 2016.
Last year, the state of Idaho approved medical marijuana to treat children with epilepsy. In a related Inquisitr report, an oil extract made from cannabis has been shown to successfully reduce the number of seizures experienced by children stricken with the disorder.
Surveys indicate that over two-thirds of Florida residents want legalization of medical marijuana. If approved in November, Florida will be among 23 other states and Washington, D.C. that allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical purposes.
[Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images]