Voters give high sign to medical marijuana

By Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida
Published On: May 05 2014 04:21:28 PM EDT
Updated On: May 05 2014 05:10:53 PM EDT
Business of medical marijuana
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Florida appears ready for medical marijuana.

A poll released Monday shows that 88 percent of Florida voters support allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes, bolstering the arguments of advocates who have placed a constitutional amendment on the November ballot seeking legalization.

The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, indicates widespread support across political and demographic lines --- Republicans and Democrats, men and women, young and old --- for legal medical marijuana if it is prescribed by physicians. The constitutional amendment needs approval from 60 percent of voters to pass.

"If Vegas were giving odds on medical marijuana becoming legal in Florida, the bookies would be betting heavily," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in a statement released with the results.

Support for the idea has grown slightly since a Quinnipiac poll in November 2013 indicated 82 percent of voters approved of legalization. Since that poll, a group spearheaded by prominent Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan finished gathering enough petition signatures to place the issue on this year's general-election ballot and also received a sign-off from the Florida Supreme Court.

Attorney General Pam Bondi and Republican legislative leaders wanted the Supreme Court to block the constitutional amendment, contending that the proposal was far broader than billed. For example, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, described the proposal as being "about the Coloradofication of Florida, where the end game is a pot shop on every street corner."

But the Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, allowed the amendment to move forward, finding that the wording of the ballot title and summary would not mislead voters.

Despite the criticism of the ballot proposal, the GOP-dominated Legislature last week approved a bill aimed at making available a strain of marijuana that supporters say will help children who have a form of epilepsy that causes severe seizures. The substance, known as "Charlotte's Web," is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, so users do not get high.

The Quinnipiac poll found that legal use of medical marijuana was supported by 93 percent of Democrats, 89 percent of independents and 80 percent of Republicans. It was supported by 92 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 and 84 percent of voters ages 65 and older.

Connecticut-based Quinnipiac frequently conducts polls in Florida and other states. It surveyed 1,413 registered Florida voters from April 23 to April 28, and the poll's margin of error was 2.6 percentage points.

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