Supporters of medical marijuana have finally gotten their wish. On Tuesday evening, Florida voters finally passed Amendment 2, approving the measure by 71 percent.
“This is a gigantic deal for the hundreds of thousands of Floridians who will benefit very, very soon,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager for People United for Medical Marijuana said in Orlando. “This is a gigantic deal for moving medical marijuana forward, for proving that marijuana is medicine.”
In order to pass, amendments need to receive 60 percent of the vote.
It was only two years ago that Amendment 2 just barely missed that cut off of a 60 percent approval, but supporters say they never gave up hope.
Amendment 2 will legalize medical marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions which include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and for other conditions which a physician feels using medical marijuana would outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.
The measure will allow for the medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or caregiver. It would also prohibit physicians from being subject to criminal or civil liabilities under Florida law for issuing a prescription for medical marijuana.
The campaign on Amendment 2 was a long, hard-fought and expensive battle. Both campaigns raised millions of dollars for the ballot initiative, but United For Care had a slight edge on Drug Free Florida this go around.
Voter turnout typically ends to be higher in presidential election years, which resulted in a much higher turnout than 2014.
Money was also a factor this year. In 2014, Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson forked over $5 million to Drug Free Florida, but he didn’t donate quite as much this year. Adelson gave $1.5 million to the campaign in 2016.
On the pro-medical marijuana side, fundraising had been much stronger this year, resulting in United For Care raising around $2 million more than opponents in 2016.
Drug Free Florida had the advantage of receiving large, one-time donations from big donors, but United For Care excelled in gathering smaller donations to beef up their fundraising haul. Because Drug Free Florida’s overall fundraising numbers were slightly smaller this year than they were in 2014, they did not wage as intense of a battle against medical pot via TV ads in 2016 as they did during the last election.
A low-THC strain of pot is already legal in Florida. In 2014, state lawmakers approved the “Charlotte’s Web” strain of non-euphoric marijuana for patients suffering with epilepsy. Amendment 2 would expand coverage of medical marijuana to other conditions.
Dispensaries began distributing and delivering medical marijuana to patients this summer and many companies have already opened several locations to dispense the drug statewide.