TALLAHASSEE Jan 16 Supporters of a medical
marijuana constitutional amendment in Florida say they have
collected enough voter signatures to put their proposal on the
November ballot, joining a growing list of states revisiting
Hundreds of thousands of petitions must still be verified by
county election supervisors before a Feb. 1st deadline.
"It's going to be close, down to the wire," Ann McFall, the
Volusia County supervisor of elections, said Thursday.
If the petition is approved by 60 percent of voters in
November, Florida would become the first southern U.S. state to
approve marijuana for medical use, joining 20 other states.
A Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey late last
year showed 82 percent public support for the amendment, if it
gets on the ballot. A constitutional amendment in Florida
requires 60 percent voter approval for adoption.
About 1.1 million voter signatures have been submitted to
county officers across the state for verification, said Ben
Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, the organizers of
the ballot initiative which is funded to the tune of more than
$3 million by prominent Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan.
With a predicted invalidation rate of 25 percent, that would
be more than enough to reach the 683,189 voter signatures
required to put an issue on the ballot.
The Division of Elections has so far received only 470,056
certified signatures, and will have to validate at least 200,000
more before the deadline.
An additional challenge is the requirement that the
amendment get signatures equal to 8 percent of the voter turnout
in the past presidential election, in at least 14 congressional
districts. That is meant to assure statewide demand for an
amendment so that one corner of the state, such as Miami-Fort
Lauderdale, does not put a locally popular issue like casino
gambling on the statewide ballot every two years.
By Thursday, the marijuana amendment exceeded the
requirement in only five congressional districts, mainly in the
Miami-Dade and Broward County area, two Hillsborough-Pinellas
County districts, and an Orlando-Daytona Beach-Jacksonville
The campaign was close in four other districts, needing
5,000 signatures or fewer, but Pollara expressed confidence
about reaching the required total if counties get everything
counted on time.
"We're going to be submitting another round of maybe 100,000
signatures today and tomorrow to the counties, which would give
us numbers that will get 14 or 15 of these congressional
districts," said Pollara. "We feel good about that. I've
personally spoken with every supervisor of elections in the
state and they're a great and committed group of officials.
They're all committed to getting these counted and verified."
McFall said her staff is working through the weekend to
verify petition signatures, but won't be working on the Monday
She said past batches of petitions have shown a fairly high
washout rate of duplication, as well as voters who don't live in
the districts where their petitions are submitted.
The Florida Supreme Court must also rule on a challenge to
the wording of the amendment by the state. Attorney General Pam
Bondi and the Republican leadership of the Legislature are
against the amendment, which would allow licensed physicians to
prescribe marijuana for debilitating medical conditions.
Bondi's office argued the wording is deceptive, possibly
misleading voters to think state law can trump federal marijuana
laws, and that the language is vague about defining when
marijuana could be prescribed.
United for Care argued in court that the amendment clearly
sets forth its intention and that physicians would not be
allowed to prescribe pot for frivolous health complaints by
(Editing by David Adams and Nick Zieminski)