United for Care begins process of collecting signatures for 2016 medical marijuana ballot measure

in 2017/Top Headlines by

The bid to have Florida join the growing number of states that have legalized medical marijuana languished for years, until Orlando attorney and Democratic Party fundraiser John Morgan organized an effort to get the measure passed last year.

You know what happened: the measure received overwhelming support, but 57 percent isn’t 60 percent — the margin required for passage by a citizen-led constitutional amendment drive.

After holding out hope that the Legislature might address the issue this past spring, United for Care, the group that worked to pass the measure in 2014, is now actively requesting signatures to get on a petition to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.

Officials with the group say that they’ve already been collecting “tens of thousands” of signatures since mid-January of this year, but they’ll ultimately need 683,149 valid signatures turned into the Florida Department of State’s office by February 1 of next year to obtain ballot placement for 2016.

“We collected over a million petitions in 2014 and nearly 3.4 million people voted “yes” for medical marijuana. There is no question in my mind that we will get medical marijuana back on the ballot for 2016,” says Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care.

Officials with the group say that the ballot language has been tweaked somewhat — clarifying issues related to parental consent and the kinds of conditions that would qualify a potential patient, with a doctor’s recommendation.

“The Legislature had an opportunity to keep this off the ballot by passing a law,” says Morgan, chairman of United for Care. “They turned their backs on the patients of Florida — but we can and we won’t. We’re going to win this war and help suffering Floridians in 2016.”

The petition can be accessed here. Supporters emphasize that previous citizens who signed the petition for last year’s ballot measure must sign again for the 2016 proposal.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.