Pubdate: Thu, 10 Sep 2015
Source: Tampa Bay Times (FL)
Copyright: 2015 St. Petersburg Times
Note: Named the St. Petersburg Times from 1884-2011.
Page: A10


Supporters of a movement to legalize marijuana for medical use in 
Florida reached an important milestone last week, gaining enough 
valid petition signatures to prompt a Florida Supreme Court review of 
the ballot language.

This was expected after the effort fell just shy of winning enough 
votes in 2014 and the Legislature refused to take up the issue this 
year. It should be clearer than ever to legislators that they have 
one more chance to pass legislation that legalizes medical marijuana 
or voters likely will do it themselves next year by amending the 
state Constitution.

United for Care, the group backed by Orlando lawyer John Morgan, 
announced that it has collected 73,713 validated petitions for a 
constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana.

The petitions triggered a review of the group's proposal by the 
Florida Supreme Court. Though only a first step, this sets the effort 
up for what will likely be another showdown at the polls next year. 
To get on the ballot, supporters need Supreme Court approval of the 
amendment's language and another 609,436 validated signatures, both 
hurdles the group overcame in its 2014 bid. In that effort, 58 
percent of voters supported the amendment, just below the 60 percent 
threshold needed to change the state Constitution. There is every 
reason to believe they will get the additional votes they need next 
year if the Legislature fails to act.

Floridians suffering from pain and serious ailments should have 
access to all available treatments that can provide comfort, 
including medical marijuana. But ideally such access should not be 
carved into the state Constitution, which is difficult to change.

A legislative solution, which can be tweaked and adjusted as issues 
arise, remains the best way forward. But lawmakers have repeatedly 
fumbled the issue, kicking it down the road for later discussion. The 
time to act is now.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is again readying a bill that 
would legalize medical marijuana in Florida. Legislators should give 
it, and any other proposals that thoughtfully address the issue, a 
full hearing and take action.

Otherwise, voters will consider a much improved constitutional 
amendment on medical marijuana in 2016 that very likely will be approved.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom