Florida Does Not Approve Medical Marijuana in 2014
Voters in Florida rejected Amendment 2 by a narrow margin. While most voters (57%) supported Amendment 2, it did not get the required 60% of the vote to be approved. Many patients across the state who suffer with debilitating conditions, and their families, were saddened by the results, as their medicine remains criminalized under state, federal, and in some cases local law. Given the high percentage of votes in favor of Amendment 2, it is likely the state legislature will again take up the issue of medical cannabis during the next session, and activists could choose to create another medical cannabis ballot initiative, possibly for the 2016 presidential election. It is likely the legislature will introduce a broader medical cannabis bill with language that is more restrictive and limited than the language of Amendment 2.
Floridians Left With Limited Medical Cannabis Access
Floridians still maintain the right to raise a medical necessity defense, and await the Department of Health's implementation of SB 1030, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014. Many reformers say the low-THC medical cannabis act passed by the state legislature earlier this year cannot be implemented without the cooperation of the Federal government, due to problems with the language of the bill.
Even if SB 1030 is implemented, it will only help patients with epilepsy and other seizure disorders, and disorders that cause severe and persistent muscle spasms. Patients with other conditions, or those who need high-THC strains of cannabis, will have to prove they have a medical necessity, which usually involves defending themselves in court. Although Amendment 2 failed, dozens of municipalities had preemptively banned or restricted medical cannabis dispensaries, in anticipation of what was at the time seen as the inevitable passage of Amendment 2, and should SB 1030 be implemented, low-THC cannabis dispensaries will now face the same restrictions and bans municipalities rushed to pass in hopes of regulating Amendment 2 dispensaries.
Some say that while most Floridians support medical cannabis, a large number of medical cannabis supporters did not support Amendment 2 either because they did not want to legalize medical cannabis by amending the state Constitution, while others took issue with the language of Amendment 2. Citizens cannot initiative state statutes through ballot measures, so any future citizen initiative ballot measure would again require an amendment to the state Constitution. The legislature could refer a state statute to the ballot.
The Future of Cannabis in Florida
The legalization of medical cannabis within the State of Florida is inevitable, the November election showed that most voters support an Amendment 2-style legalized medical cannabis system, it just barely missed the 60% required to amend the state Constitution. At least until the next elections, it seems it will again be up to the state legislature to enact the will of the people. Given the problems plaguing the low-THC medical cannabis program, the legislature may very well need to go back and readdress the issue of medical cannabis. The results of recreational legalization initiatives in Oregon, Alaska, and 3 cities in Maine are not yet available at press time, but with Colorado and Washington passing the first legalization initiatives, and polls showing most Americans favor legalization, many see it as only a matter of time until full legalization is achieved. With Floridians willing to spend millions, and millions voting in favor of medical cannabis, it is clear the battle to legalize medical cannabis in the Sunshine State is far from over.