Pubdate: Thu, 21 Nov 2013
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2013 Miami Herald Media Co.
Author: Marc Caputo


If a medical marijuana initiative makes Florida's ballot next year, 
it could pass with an astonishing 82 percent of the vote, according 
to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday that finds 
voters also favor outright legalization as well.

Support for the proposed constitutional amendment is strong among 
voters of every political stripe, age and income level, with 
independents lending the most support: 88 percent, the poll shows.

The overall 82-16 percent support for medical marijuana is the 
biggest to date. The previous high-point for Florida approval was 
about 70 percent in a poll taken earlier this year by the 
medical-marijuana advocacy group, People United for Medical Marijuana.

There are some differences in wording between the initiative and the 
Quinnipiac poll; the amendment says doctors can "recommend" 
marijuana, the poll asks if a doctor should be able to "prescribe" it.

Still, medical marijuana is clearly popular. And marijuana 
legalization is becoming more-liked as well, albeit narrowly.

Nearly half of Florida voters favor it - 48 percent - while 46 
percent oppose pot legalization for personal use. That's within the 
margin of error, but it's a leading indicator of a shift in public 
opinion. Support for legalization is again strongest among 
independents (57-37 percent), and then Democrats (55-39 percent).

But Republicans are opposed 30-64 percent. Contrast that with GOP 
voter support for medical marijuana is solid: 70-26 percent.

One early poll and analysis from People United found that 
medical-marijuana was so popular that it could alter the course of 
the governor's race.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott opposes medical marijuana; Democrats 
Charlie Crist and Nan Rich support the initiative, which is funded 
and led by Crist's employer, trial attorney John Morgan, a Democratic 
donor. A major Florida Republican donor, former ambassador Mel 
Sembler, is opposing the measure through his Drug Free America Foundation.

In the race for governor, the Quinnipiac poll found Scott trailed 
Crist poll by 7 percentage points, 40-47 percent. That's an 
improvement for Scott, however, compared to the last Quinnipiac Poll 
in June, when the governor trailed by 10 percentage points.

Since Quinnipiac's last poll in June, Crist has lost some standing 
among independent voters. One possible reason: As soon as the former 
governor announced he was running for office, Scott began attacking 
him in television ads that began running a full year before the election.

As for medical marijuana's fate, the proposed amendment - which takes 
60 percent voter approval to pass in Florida - appears to be on an 
easy path to victory at the moment. But only if it makes the ballot.

The Florida legislative leaders and the state's Attorney General want 
the state Supreme Court to block the measure from the ballot, saying 
the ballot summary is misleading and that it violates a rule that 
limits the scope of a constitutional amendment to a single subject. 
People United for Medical Marijuana, the advocacy group pushing the 
measure, say the criticisms are false.

"This poll shows yet again that Floridians overwhelmingly support a 
compassionate medical marijuana policy in Florida, despite the 
continued opposition of out-of-touch, Tallahassee politicians like 
Pam Bondi," said Ben Pollara, treasurer for People United.

The Florida Supreme Court will hear the matter next month.

Even if it passes constitutional muster, People United needs to 
collect 683,149 verified voter signatures by February. People United 
has gathered 200,000 so far, of which more than 110,000 had been 
verified last month.

In November, Miami Beach voters approved a non-binding straw poll 
calling for medical marijuana by 64 percent.

A number of critics are starting to more actively denounce the 
measure in Florida.

Grady Judd, Polk County's sheriff and the head of the Florida 
Sheriffs Association, likened marijuana to more dangerous drugs and 
pointed criticisms about the effectiveness of marijuana as medicine 
from the Florida Medical Association, American Cancer Society and the 
American Academy of Ophthalmology.

"Lawmakers and law enforcement have worked tirelessly to get 
Florida's crime rate to its current 42-year low," Judd said in a 
statement. "Let's not roll back that progress by legalizing a drug 
with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom