By Max Charles firstname.lastname@example.org
Florida voters have waited to two long years to get another crack at passing a medical marijuana legalization amendment that failed to pass in 2014. The amendment required at least 60 percent majority of the vote to pass. The amendment passed in a landslide, obtaining over 70 percent of the vote, showing the support Florida residents have for the drug’s medical uses. Some residents, even supporters of medical marijuana were skeptical that the resolution would pass.
Luke Cohen, a 20-year-old student at Flagler College, was here in 2014 when the vote narrowly missed, getting 57.68 percent of the majority vote.
“After the last vote, I thought people would be discouraged to vote, because they thought it didn’t have enough support in Florida.”
Although most of Florida’s residents supported the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, Florida’s state constitution requires a 60 percent “supermajority vote” for an amendment to pass. The vote failed to pass by the narrow margin of about 140,000 votes. In context of Florida’s registered voters, this was a very small margin.
Although Florida was one of many states with recreational and medical marijuana legalization on the ballot, proponents of the measure say medical marijuana legalization in Florida is critical for other states to legalize it as well.
“Medical marijuana helps people and people in Florida understand that, this victory is going to help the people that need it,” said Victoria Walker, the community relations director for TRUlieve, one of the most prominent medical marijuana businesses in Florida.
The medical marijuana TRUlieve is currently allowed to grow and prescribe lacks the Tetrahydrocannibinol or THC qualities of marijuana that gets the user “high.” The plant is bred to produce more CBD, the other active component in marijuana that can help inhibit cancer from spreading, reduce seizures and even help people sleep better at night. The Florida company specializes in helping patients who have serious diseases with the use of medical marijuana and only hopes to grow it’s business with the amendment being passed. TRUlieve currently has three dispensaries in Florida and a growery and is planning to odd another dispensary in Jacksonville in the coming months. Florida is somewhat late on the marijuana train with over 20 other states have already legalized the use of medical marijuana.
“It’s important that we don’t overlook the medical qualities of marijuana and rule out its uses,” said Dr. Terel Newton.
Newton is a member of the American Board of Anesthesiology, The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, The Florida Medical association and a handful of other prominent medical organizations. He has also started an alternative care clinic of which Newton is the CEO and Lead Physician. Newton’s business, Total Pain Relief LLC in Jacksonville, Florida specializes in acute and chronic pain management.
“People in Florida really need this. It’s going to help a lot of people who have been waiting for this,” said Newton.
In 2015, Newton was certified to begin prescribing the same low THC grade marijuana or High CBD strains, that TRUlieve produces, to patients in need of a medicine that doesn’t take as big of a toll on one’s body as opioids.
“Any type of man-made substance or pill is going to be worse on the body than a plant based-medicine.”
The constitutional measure legalizes medical marijuana use for a group of specific diseases and ailments and is less lenient than other states with legal medical marijuana use, where almost anything will qualify as a reason to get “high.” Only patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis can apply to be treated with medical marijuana.
The passing of the amendment was a big win for John Morgan of Morgan & Morgan law firm. His law firm was a leading proponent of the bill and spent more than $6.5 million over the past two years to campaign to help the measure pass. Morgan believes the use of medical marijuana as a form of medicine is a lot safer than a pill that is man made.
On top of many states legalizing medical marijuana during the election, four states decided to go a step further and legalize recreational use for pot smokers.
“It will be interesting to see how things are different when I go back home,” said Cohen, a resident of Massachusetts, a state that approved the recreational use of marijuana. Massachusetts was one of three states to pass a recreational measure, others being California, Maine, and Nevada. Cohen thinks the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts is similar to the medical victory in Florida.
“Legalization in the western part of America is understandable, but it is pretty surprising that states in the East Coast are following suit,” Cohen said. “This could be the start of a domino effect in the U.S.”