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Florida’s Amendment 2 on Marijuana: What Happens Now

Take my hand, non-believer.  If you are one of the handful of people who voted against Amendment 2 or if you voted in favor of it but have questions about what happens next, you’ve come to the right place.  There’s so much to learn.

I suspect most consumers of current media outlets may be overwhelmed by the myriad news sources scouring the globe for understanding the miscalculations regarding the presidential election. In the midst of political autopsies piling up, a miracle occurred with little fanfare: Florida legalized medical cannabis.

The best part of this blog is that there is no need to interpret the response Florida provided to the question of whether it is time for America to toss racist and elitist prohibition laws and embrace the plant called cannabis sativa.

For context, Amendment 2 was a citizen’s initiative in Florida to amend the constitution to permit the Sunshine State to legally regulate and sell cannabis as medicine.  In order to get on the ballot, the sponsor had to obtained hundreds of thousands of signatures for a petition.  Amendment 2 had been on the ballot previously in 2014 but had failed to meet the minimum to amend the Florida constitution. While about 58 percent of the votes were in favor of Amendment 2 in 2014, it failed to meet the requisite 60% minimum for passage. The second time was the charm, as the 2016 version of the initiative received 71% of the vote.

As you hear about President-Elect Trump failing to receive a mandate, cannabis rang that bell, and then some. Medical marijuana was so popular in 2016 that Amendment 2 won in literally every county of Florida. Here are the most powerful statements about what the populace thought concerning Amendment 2:

  1. There are sixty-seven counties in Florida, which all approved the Amendment by more than 50 percent. Stated another way, 100% of the counties came back and said a majority of their populations wanted medical cannabis to be available.
  2. More people voted – think 1.5 million – for Amendment 2 than voted for Senator Marco Rubio (R), who won reelection. This follows the 2014 election trend where more people voted for Amendment 2 than voted for Governor Rick Scott (R) and Attorney General Pam Bondi (R).
  3. Exiting polling data suggests that self-described Republicans voted against Amendment 2, by a margin of 55 to 45.

What’s next? Amendment 2 is merely an “insert” into Florida’s constitutional authority where a “right” has now been created and is subject to a regulatory infrastructure that has yet to be built in earnest. Lawmakers will have to deal with the expansion of pot during the legislative session that begins in March, setting up what could be a big fight.

The next steps are anyone’s guess. Florida is now on the path to establishing an environment where medical cannabis can be legalized and spark enormous wealth for the State of Florida, yet there is no leadership in Tallahassee to do so. Status Quo Republicans still somehow believe that they can distance themselves from the issue or worse, encourage bans and moratoriums that will prevent medical marijuana businesses from opening. The success of the constitutional amendment raises questions about the future of Florida’s industry and sets the stage for more legal battles over opportunities and availability. I ask the Republican-run Florida government, “What are you afraid of?”

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