Decision 2016: Medical Marijuana Amendment Approved in 2nd Attempt

Florida voters have approved the amendment which legalizes the use of marijuana for specific medical purposes.

Amendment 2 has virtually the same language it did in 2014, when 57.6 percent of voters said yes to the measure – just over two percent less than the 60 percent needed under state law for an amendment to pass.

Without all precincts reporting, the vote total showed nearly 70 percent of voters in favor of the amendment.

The measure broadens access to pot for limited therapeutic uses approved by the legislature two years ago.

Currently, the law allows non-smoked, low-THC pot for patients with cancer or ailments that cause chronic seizures or severe spasms. The ballot measure formally legalizes medical marijuana, and broadens access for diseases with symptoms other than seizures or spasms.

Specifically it allows prescriptions for 10 illnesses: cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis. It also allows doctors to prescribe pot for any other similar kind of ailment.

Marie Ivey, 73, a music publisher from Coral Springs, said she decided to vote for the measure after talking to her adult daughter, who has cancer and undergone four operations.

"She is in pretty bad shape now,'' Ivey said, adding that she thinks using marijuana would be "OK, if it helps.''

A similar ballot measure narrowly failed in 2014, when opponents expressed concerns that the state would be overrun with pot shops and that children wouldn't be adequately protected from potential bad effects of the drug.

Proponents said loopholes were closed this time, including requiring parental written consent for underage patients.

The Department of Health will regulate how medical marijuana can be distributed along with mandating identification cards for caregivers and patients. Many rules and regulations _ from how the marijuana is grown to regulations on how it can be transported for in-home delivery _ already have been passed by the legislature under laws for limited use of marijuana. Those regulations also will apply to the constitutional amendment.

The bill’s language reads as follows:

“Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.”

Conditions that would be approved by the state for use would include cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Multiple sclerosis among others. It would also allow licensed physicians to certify patients if they have "other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable” as ones defined by the amendment.

Currently, the state has a program that allows patients access to non-smoked, low THC marijuana. That program would not be affected if Amendent 2 does not pass.

After learning Amendment 2 passed, opponents vowed to take their fight to the Florida Legislature. 

In a statement a Vote No on 2 spokesperson wrote, “The authors of Amendment 2 have long maintained that the legislature has wide discretion to regulate the implementation of Amendment 2 for the health, safety and welfare of all Floridians. Therefore, we implore the legislature to take the authors of Amendment 2 at their word by passing implementing legislation that bans pot candy, puts a limit on THC levels, tightly defines 'other debilitating medical conditions,' and gives local communities the right to limit, restrict, and outright ban pot shops."

Most polls taken in the weeks prior to the election showed the bill passing this time. In Broward County, Amendment 2 caused controversy when it was left off several ballots mailed to voters. Officials say the omission was on just two ballots and were replaced for those voters.

Florida becomes the 26th state along with the District of Columbia to legalize the marijuana plant for medical use. Florida is one of 16 states where only part of the marijuana plant is used.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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