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New Florida poll: 82 percent of voters favor legalizing medical marijuana

If a medical marijuana initiative makes Florida's ballot next year, it could pass with an astonishing 82 percent of the vote, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday that finds voters also favor outright legalization as well.

Support for the proposed constitutional amendment is strong among voters of every political stripe, age and income level, with independents lending the most support: 88 percent, the poll shows.

The overall 82-16 percent support for medical marijuana is the biggest to date. The previous high point for Florida approval was about 70 percent in a poll taken earlier this year by the medical-marijuana advocacy group, People United for Medical Marijuana.

And marijuana legalization is becoming more-liked as well, albeit narrowly.

Nearly half of Florida voters favor it — 48 percent — while 46 percent oppose pot legalization for personal use. That's within the margin of error, but it's a leading indicator of a shift in public opinion. Support for legalization is again strongest among independents (57-37 percent), and then Democrats (55-39 percent).

But Republicans are opposed 30-64 percent. Contrast that with GOP voter support for medical marijuana: 70-26 percent.

One early poll and analysis from People United found that medical-marijuana was so popular that it could alter the course of the governor's race.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott opposes medical marijuana; Democrats Charlie Crist and Nan Rich support the initiative, which is funded and led by Crist's employer, trial attorney John Morgan, a Democratic donor. A major Florida Republican donor, former ambassador Mel Sembler, is opposing the measure through his Drug Free America Foundation.

In the race for governor, the Quinnipiac poll found Scott trailed Crist by 7 percentage points, 40-47 percent. That's an improvement for Scott, however, compared with the last Quinnipiac Poll in June, when the governor trailed by 10 percentage points.

Another change since June is that Crist has lost some standing among independent voters. One possible reason: As soon as the former governor announced he was running for office, Scott began attacking him in television ads that began running a full year before the election.

As for medical marijuana's fate, the proposed amendment — which takes 60 percent voter approval to pass in Florida — appears to be on an easy path to victory at the moment. But only if it makes the ballot.

Florida legislative leaders and Attorney General Pam Bondi want the state Supreme Court to block the measure from the ballot, saying the summary is misleading and that it violates a rule that limits the scope of a constitutional amendment to a single subject. People United for Medical Marijuana say the criticisms are false.

The Florida Supreme Court will hear the matter next month.

Even if it passes constitutional muster, People United needs to collect 683,149 verified voter signatures by February. People United has gathered 200,000 so far, of which more than 110,000 had been verified last month.

New Florida poll: 82 percent of voters favor legalizing medical marijuana 11/21/13 [Last modified: Thursday, November 21, 2013 7:33pm]
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