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United for Care Predicted to Bring Medical Marijuana to Florida In 2016

Where the State Legislature has failed, a fierce legion of cannabis advocates vows to get it done.

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While Florida’s cancer and epilepsy patients are waiting on bleeding knee for the state to get their act together long enough to finally provide them with some access to Charlotte’s Web, the real warriors of legalization are suiting up to ensure the passage of a comprehensive, full-strength medical marijuana program that stands to bury the ridiculous actions of the state legislature in a shallow grave out behind the State Capitol.

After waiting for more than a year for the second coming of United for Care’s “Amendment 2” to come marching in with a screaming vengeance, the organization announced earlier this month that it would, once again, have a voice in the upcoming November election. The group, overseen by millionaire attorney John Morgan, ran a fierce campaign back in 2014, but even though the initiative gained majority support at the polls, it still technically failed by two percentage points due to a state rule requiring ballot measures to secure 60 percent of the votes before becoming law.

Organizers say they feel confident about a much different outcome in 2016, mostly because they believe patients have grown tired of waiting for the state to launch a puny low-THC program.

“This November, Florida will pass this law and hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering people will see relief,” Morgan said in a statement. “What Tallahassee politicians refused to do, the people will do together in this election. A 2014 law authorizes distribution of low-THC, high-CBD cannabis extracts to qualified patients, but that system does not include any other marijuana products, and it is limited to patients with cancer, epilepsy, or conditions causing seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms.”

Although United for Care’s Amendment 2 would undoubtedly be leaps and bounds above the shoddy actions of the state legislature, the organization did make a few minor adjustments to the language of the initiative that will make it a more conservative program than the one that should have passed in 2014.

An analysis of the proposal reveals that only those “individuals with debilitating medical conditions” will be allowed to participate in the program. Those conditions would include "cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient."

Unfortunately, this is where the proposal loses some of its excitement. The initiative put on the table in 2014 also dictated “debilitating conditions,” but it also essentially gave physicians the discretion to recommend medical marijuana to patients suffering from “other conditions,” which was vague enough to set the state up for a rather liberal medicinal cannabis market. In fact, it was this loose wording that prompted United for Care’s opposition to go for the jugular with rabid enthusiasm. The language was reportedly changed by the organization early last year in an effort to achieve their mission without making too many enemies along the way.

Along with the change in patient qualification come several others, such as one requiring parental consent before minors can be treated with medical marijuana, and another that would prevent felons from becoming caregivers.

As with the 2014 initiative, no one would be permitted to engage in home cultivation.

Earlier this week, United for Care received a major endorsement by the Service Employees International Union of Florida, which consists of 55,000 active and retired healthcare professionals. In a press statement, the SEIU said, “United for Care is doing the right thing for Florida by bringing this issue to the voters. Moreover, the proposal puts medical decisions back in their proper place—between patient and doctor.”

Although there are obviously some concerns that United for Care’s latest effort will meet the same fate it did two years ago, national marijuana advocacy groups seem fairly certain that Amendment 2 will pass this year.

“I feel very confident Florida voters will legalize medical marijuana this November,” Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority told MERRY JANE. “In 2014 the same team was able to rope in nearly 58 percent of the vote in an off-year election after a campaign that in my view didn’t effectively focus on patients who stand to be helped by cannabis. This year we have a presidential election race which will drive more supportive voters to the polls, which alone should be enough to give us the extra two points we need to pass the constitutional amendment.”