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If votes had equaled petitions, medical marijuana would have passed

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

When does voting really matter? For all of the super-voters out there, the answer is, “It always does.” But for those not so attuned with voting in every election, here’s a more compelling reason.

If all of the voters who had signed a petition supporting placing Florida’s Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative on the 2014 ballot had voted “Yes,” the amendment would have passed.

The 2014 ballot question that would have made medical marijuana legal in Florida narrowly missed the 60 percent threshold to pass. The measure received 57.6 percent of the votes in favor of passage.

St. Pete Polls collected data from just shy of 775,000 petition signatures accounting for more than 98 percent of the total number of signatures to place the measure on the statewide ballot. Of those signatories, about 425,000 voted. That leaves out about 350,000 votes.

Had those 350,000 people voted, the results would have jumped to 60.012 percent — just enough to put Amendment 2 in the winning category.

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That, of course, assumes all those who signed petitions during a massive effort backed by prominent Florida attorney John Morgan would have voted in favor of it.

When things started looking questionable for Morgan, he ramped up his petition drive to include paid individuals who frequented shopping malls, parking lots and other densely populated public spaces to solicit signatures. It’s altogether possible that some signed the petition not fully understanding what they were signing.

But, according to St. Pete Polls’ data analysis, the threshold to pass would have been met by 1,853 votes. That means there would have been at least a small cushion to account for people who signed a petition and later changed their mind about support for medical marijuana.

The data analysis also shows an overwhelming majority of petition signers were Democrats, nearly half, while only 29 percent were Republicans. That falls inline with other polls that have shown that Democrats more heavily favor medical marijuana and other marijuana reform measures.

The bottom line for voters: Every vote really does count. If all of the people who found the time to sign a petition had voted that same way, Florida would be staring down the barrel of a bustling medical marijuana initiative.

Instead, marijuana reform leaders, including Morgan’s group United For Care are hustling to prepare another initiative for 2016. That effort is widely expected to be successful based on a growing trend of support for medical marijuana and a larger expected voter turnout because of it being a presidential election year.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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