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Tampa Bay residents overwhelmingly support medical marijuana

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

When personal injury attorney John Morgan’s medical marijuana amendment failed in 2014 at the ballot box, it did so with 58 percent approval. In many other states, that would have meant it was approved. So now he’s giving it another go.

If results of the latest Tampa Bay Times/WTSP poll are any indication, he’s on his way to an easy victory this time around. According to the poll, nearly three-quarters of Tampa Bay residents support legalizing marijuana for medical uses.

And that includes respondents across all age groups despite the fact that opposition to the issue has historically come from older generations.

What’s even more promising to pro-medical pot enthusiasts is the number of people who indicated they’d consider using it for one of their own ailments. Of the 605 residents surveyed, 59 percent said they might take up the drug to alleviate problems like chronic pain.

While medical marijuana earned broad support in the poll, recreational use wasn’t so popular. Only 39 percent of respondents indicated they’d support legalizing the drug for all uses.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, those surveyed had a variety of different responses when asked to elaborate on their stances. One woman, a nurse, thinks marijuana should be legal for recreational and medical uses.

“There are times when narcotic drugs make patients more loopy than relaxed,” Simone Reddick told the Times. “Not only does medical marijuana help people relax, it has other benefits, too. It increases appetite. It’s a natural herb.”

Others, though, stuck to the anti-pot rhetoric concerning kids. That argument goes something like this: “I don’t want my grandkids thinking that is OK.”

That argument came from Joy Mayo. She’s not alone. Critics to medical marijuana initiatives often play off the fear that loosening restrictions on the drug means more kids will get their hands on them.

Other critics also point to a law already on the books. In 2014, the Legislature passed what’s known as the Charlotte’s Web bill to legalize the prescription of strains of marijuana low in the euphoria-inducing chemical THC. It’s administered in oil form and not smoked. The drug is most commonly used for children with severe epilepsy.

That law got tangled in a web of bureaucratic red tape, and groups not chosen to be licensed to cultivate and distribute it are still holding it up.

That’s why Morgan’s group, United for Care, is stepping back up to the plate. The group says it has enough petitions to put another ballot measure in front of voters for 2016.

“This is not — and has not been — a controversial issue for most Floridians,” United for Care director Ben Pollara told the Times. “The polls have been consistent for the last two or three years.”

The poll was conducted between Dec. 3 and 10 with a margin of error of +/- four percent.

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 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

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