What’s Next for Florida’s Legalized Marijuana Movement
This past November, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C. passed marijuana initiatives legalizing the use of recreational marijuana. Florida’s medical marijuana initiative, however, was narrowly defeated. This was not for a lack of popular support. Florida statutes require a 60% majority to pass any initiative. The final vote count was 58%. Legal Ink has invited Jeffrey Feller for his views on the outcome of Florida’s Amendment 2 initiative.
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Jeffrey Feiler is an expert in medical marijuana law and an experienced criminal trial attorney. After playing a critical role in providing legal advice for the Colorado Medical Marijuana industry transition, Feiler is now based in Florida helping to inform the public about marijuana following the Amendment vote, and now to aid with the Senate Bill 1030 application period. Feiler is also the CEO and Founder of Grass Roots Ventures, Inc., the conglomerate of four Medical Marijuana companies (Grass Roots Grows, Grass Roots Franchise, ASA Cannabis Genetics and Dispensing Organization Administrator). Feiler has handled cases throughout the United States, practiced in State Courts and Federal Courts and in many jurisdictions throughout the country.
LIM: Why do you believe Florida’s recent medical marijuana initiative failed at the ballot box? Did the Florida Governor’s race play a big part?
JF: Florida’s Medical Marijuana initiative did extraordinarily well garnering 57.6% of the vote with 3,355,435 voters approving the proposed referendum. To give perspective, Governor Scott was retained obtaining 48% of the vote with 2,861,000 votes nearly a half million less! However, the will of a clear majority of Floridians is not enough to pass a Constitutional Amendment which requires 60% of the vote. The obvious question then is, why should it take a Constitutional Amendment to enact a law that the people want? The answer is, that when the Legislature refuses to act, the people must resort to extreme measures. Had this been a Presidential election year, where many more young educated voters participated, the Amendment would surely have passed. This will be the case in 2016.
LIM: How effective were the counter-campaigns?
JF: Millions of dollars were spent, donated from outside of Florida by a group with their own motives and agenda, resulting in negative commercials filled with distorted information and scare tactics. In fact, one could become nauseated watching the negative advertisements in the Gubernatorial and Senate races to the extent that it is a wonder anyone came out to vote at all. Low voter turnout worked against the passage of the Amendment. The tactic, aimed at older and more conservative voters, was to get them to believe that medical marijuana was already legal in Florida and what was on the ballot was an initiative for recreational marijuana. I spoke with numerous people on the street who, to my amazement, thought that was the reality. Had they been properly educated, to understand that Cannabis based medications have been proven to help Americans suffering from a broad spectrum of illnesses, rather than this being a law for intoxicants, the result would have been different. Proponents of the law did not have the financial resources to dispel the misinformation.
LIM: What recommendations would you suggest to change the results for the next election cycle?
JF: Going forward, efforts will be made to educate the State’s Senators and Representatives in the hope that a comprehensive Bill, such as one being proposed by a Blue Ribbon Commission, will be passed in the 2015 Legislative session. At this time 51% of Americans are in favor of complete legalization of Marijuana and more than half of the States now have legalized Medical Marijuana. In fact 4 states plus, ironically, Washington DC, have legalized marijuana completely. The ballot was a valiant first attempt which will, in time, become the law.