A proposed constitutional amendment to allow the medical use of marijuana will go before Florida voters in November after the Florida Supreme Court narrowly approved the ballot language in a 4-3 decision in January.
News 13 conducted an exclusive poll regarding the use of medical marijuana and the likelihood of Amendment 2 passing by a 60 percent majority in November.
Of the 814 likely voters who participated in our poll between Aug. 27 and Aug. 31, 58 percent supported the use of medical marijuana, with 30 percent opposed. Nine percent have not thought about the issue.
In a separate question, we asked if they would support the Amendment 2 proposal, which will appear on the November ballot. Fifty-seven percent of the likely voters said they would vote to pass the amendment, 23 percent opposed it. Seventeen percent said they had not thought much about it.
"You look at this poll, and there are 17 percent undecided," News 13 Political Analyst Jeremiah Jaspon (D) said. "You only need to get 3 percent more to reach the 60 percent needed to have this amendment passed. I think this is going to pass handedly."
"The No on 2 people have not even launched into their media campaign," News 13 Political Analyst Michelle Ertel (R) said. "I think that is going to be bad for those who support Amendment 2 in regard to this poll, and only 57 percent are showing support."
Orlando personal injury lawyer John Morgan spent $4 million on a medical marijuana petition drive to secure placement on the ballot in case the Supreme Court decision did not go his way. That movement did secure enough voter signatures as Attorney General Pam Bondi fought to keep the question off the ballot.
The 74-word ballot, coming in at just under the 75-word limit on summing up a proposed amendment, reads as follows:
Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases 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 authorize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.
How Florida's justices voted
Approved: Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and James Perry said the ballot language was clear.
"The proposed amendment has a logical and natural oneness of purpose — namely, whether Floridians want a provision in the state constitution authorizing the medical use of marijuana, as determined by a licensed Florida physician," they wrote. "The ballot title and summary fairly inform voters of the chief purpose of the amendment and will not mislead voters, who will be able to cast an intelligent and informed ballot."
Disapproved: Justices Ricky Polston, Charles Canady and Jorge Labarga dissented.
"Placing this initiative's title and summary on the ballot will result in Floridians voting on a constitutional amendment in disguise," Polston wrote. He took issue with the ballot summary saying medical marijuana would be allowed for patients with debilitating diseases, but the amendment also allows the use for patients with debilitating conditions, which might not be a disease.
Associated Press writer Gary Fineout contributed to this report.
Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Colorado and Washington state allow recreational use.
Polls have shown strong support for the measure. Gov. Rick Scott has opposed medical marijuana and Amendment 2, but he said he would respect the voters' wishes if it is approved. Former Gov. Charlie Crist has shown support for medical marijuana.
George Sheldon, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General, is also a supporter of Amendment 2.
"We need to quit devoting government resources to meddling in the lives of people who are suffering and focus our resources on making life better and more productive for the citizens of Florida," Sheldon said in a release after the ruling by the Florida Supreme Court.
Bondi previously challenged the ballot summary, saying the language was misleading and a more widespread use of marijuana would be allowed than what voters would be led to believe.
"I don't think any Republican has a problem with medical marijuana," Ertel said. "If you read beyond the 75 words that are going to appear on the ballot, there are a whole lot of things that are out there. This is not just medical marijuana. If I have a headache, my kid gets an owie or I am just having a bad day — I can just go to the doctor and get a card. Then I can go ahead and go to a dispensary. The dispensary is not at your local pharmacy. It is stand-alone specific place. Plus, there is no age restriction on this."
Ertel said voters really need to read the entire amendment in order to fully grasp all of the elements which will come into play if it is passed.
"The Florida Medical Association has come out against medical marijuana, The Florida Chamber — against medical marijuana. The Sheriff's Association is getting ready to launch a huge campaign explaining what is on the back end of the is amendment," Ertel said. "I think voters need to be very, very careful and very clear on what they are voting for in November."
"What Michelle just said is what a lot of No folks are going to try and do, which is not really tell the truth," Jaspon said. "The truth is, is this is not recreational marijuana. This is what they are trying to portray, but this is not the case. This is for medicinal marijuana. If doctors are going to prescribe it for people with a headache, then they are going to put themselves into a position of liability and have their license taken away."
Some are concerned if the measure passes in November, legalizing recreational use would not be far behind. Others we interviewed in downtown Orlando believe it is an individual choice.
"If you choose to do it, that's on you," Katherine Braund said. "If you don't, that is your choice. It's just like medicine, taking codeine. If you choose not to take a pain suppressant, it is your choice."
Rosie Snow said she believes in God and thinks it is wrong.
"My mother has a rehab center in California. So, if I were to say yes, she would be mad at me. To each their own, but I do not think that it is a good idea," Snow said.
Florida Decides Poll
1. Some people believe that marijuana should be allowed for medicinal purposes, such as helping with the side effects of chemotherapy. Others believe that allowing medicinal uses of marijuana will just lead to more recreational use of the drug.
Do you A) Support medical marijuana use; B) Oppose medical marijuana use; or C) Haven't thought much about this?
2. This fall's ballot includes Amendment 2, which "Allows the medical use of marijuana ... as determined by a licensed Florida physician."
Do you think you will A) Vote Yes; B) Vote No; or C) Haven't thought much about this?
The telephone survey of 814 registered Florida voters — all likely to vote in the November election — was conducted Aug. 27-31 for the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and News 13 by the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service and Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The poll, which included respondents using land-lines and cell phones, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Results were weighted by age, party identification and media market, thus allowing the results to mirror the distribution of age groups, party identification and media market in the Florida Voter File.