1. Florida Politics

Florida medical marijuana supporters will try again on 2016 ballot

Larry Heiny of Sarasota rouses the crowd after a USF medical marijuana rally Oct. 7 at the Marshall Student Center as part of the United for Care Medical Marijuana October Bus Tour.
Published Nov. 27, 2014

The group that put medical marijuana on the Florida ballot this year — and fell just short of passing it — intends to launch a new constitutional amendment campaign shortly.

"We are swiftly mobilizing a new petition push to get medical marijuana" on the next general election ballot, United for Care director Ben Pollara told supporters this week in a fundraising announcement.

A constitutional amendment would not be necessary if the Legislature approves medical marijuana by statute, but "we cannot rely on that," Pollara said. "We are going to pass a medical marijuana law in Florida by the end of 2016."

Amendment 2 — this year's version — gained 58 percent of the vote, just shy of the required 60 percent. It would have allowed patients with debilitating illnesses to possess pot with a doctor's recommendation.

Pollara said in an interview that United for Care's lawyer is tweaking Amendment 2's ballot language to bolster areas that opponents attacked.

One section will say explicitly that minors cannot get pot without their parents' consent.

Another section will specify that the amendment does not change existing laws about negligence by patients and doctors.

The adjective "debilitating" will be stressed more when describing qualifying conditions.

A Florida Supreme Court opinion in January should have made clear that Amendment 2 already covered such issues, Pollara said. But since opposing arguments on these points did sway some voters, he said, United for Care intends to be more explicit the second time around.

Representatives of St. Petersburg's Drug Free America Foundation, a key opponent of the ballot initiative, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Orlando lawyer John Morgan will once again lead the amendment campaign, Pollara said. Morgan could not be reached Wednesday.

To put a new constitutional amendment on the next general election ballot, United for Care has until January 2016 to submit petitions signed by nearly 700,000 voters.

Seeking as much lead time as possible, the organization will begin collecting signatures as soon as the ballot language is set, Pollara said, probably "within the next few weeks."

Last time, United for Care cranked up its petition drive in earnest only a few months before the deadline and Morgan ended up spending more than $4 million on professional signature gatherers. At one point, he said, he was paying $8 per signature.

Now United for Care has contact information for the people who signed the 2014 petition and more time to work with.

"We expect 2016 to be significantly less expensive," Pollara told supporters, "and allow us to budget a lot more for statewide advertising" to pass the amendment.

He predicted that passage would be easier, because the 2016 presidential vote will drive up turnout. Younger people, the strongest supporters of medical pot, typically vote in higher numbers in a presidential year.

While United for Care campaigns for a new amendment, he said, the group's lobbying spinoff — Florida for Care — will try to persuade the Legislature to pass a full-fledged medical marijuana system. This year's approval of a noneuphoric pot known as Charlotte's Web is a far more limited approach than what is being sought.

"If we get a decent law," Pollara said, "maybe 75 or 80 percent of what we want, we won't have to go back to the ballot."

Contact Stephen Nohlgren at


  1. Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, speaks on the floor of the Florida House. Grall is sponsoring a bill for the second time that would require parental consent for minors to obtain an abortion.
    The legislation would enact a consent requirement for minors.
  2. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. "OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Times
    He could use his position on the Board of Clemency to allow nonviolent felons to serve on juries and run for office.
  3. Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, says the Legislative Black Caucus will prioritize both public education and school choice during the 2020 Florida session. The caucus held a news conference on Oct. 22, 2019. The Florida Channel
    The caucus announced its 2020 goals for justice, housing and other key issues, as well, with members saying they will stick together to pursue them.
  4. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, thanks supporters including Ukrainian businessman Lev Parnas, left, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando. DeSantis defeated Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    This new fact indicates an attempt to directly influence DeSantis’ early policy agenda as he took office, one that DeSantis said was unsuccessful.
  5. Pre-season baseball practice at Wesley Chapel High School. Lawmakers want to ensure student-athletes remain safe in the Florida heat as they participate in high school sports. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    PreK-12 Innovation chairman Rep. Ralph Massullo expects legislation requiring some ‘simple things.’
  6. President Donald Trump speaking during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS  |  AP
    And few people are on the fence.
  7. Former sheriff of Broward County Scott Israel, right, and his attorney Benedict Knuhne wait their turn to speak to the Senate Rules Committee concerning his dismissal by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Monday Oct. 21, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    The full Senate will vote on the issue Wednesday.
  8. Parents of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a shooter killed 17 people in 2018, push petitions for 2020 ban on assault weapons in Florida. (Miami Herald) MIAMI HERALD
    After months of glitches, the Department of State is resorting to a paper workaround while ballot initiatives face higher costs.
  9. U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney.
    The Naples Republican recently refused to rule out a vote to impeach President Donald Trump.
  10. Former Pasco County Corrections Officer Wendy Miller, 57 runs towards gunfire with instructor Chris Squitieri during active shooter drills taught by Pasco County Sheriff's Office at Charles S. Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes. These drills are put are a larger training program for the Guardian program that will staff elementary schools with trained armed guards.  LUIS SANTANA   |   Times "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The change is a reversal of a previous move by the department, which specifically excluded armed teachers from its policy.