Well, this is Florida. The rules are different here.
Where else can you win a race with 58% of the vote and lose the election? Only here, of course.
Here’s the thing. We have a process in Florida that allows citizens to amend the constitution of our state by popular referendum. It requires, however, that you must get 60% of the vote in order to change the law. A simple majority is not enough.
Consequently, even though the majority of Floridians voted last night to allow patients access to marijuana medicinally, by a vote of 58% to 42 %, the numbers were not overwhelming enough to change our laws.
As a result, the Sunshine State remains in the dark ages when it comes to progressive marijuana policy. It means your physician won’t get to decide when you can use cannabis. It means that guy with the blue lights on top of his police car can still lock you up and arrest you if they find you in possession of a simple joint. And in Florida, all it takes is about 5 well-rolled spliffs to a felony make.
While 24 states in America have decriminalized or medicalized cannabis, Florida’s legislature would not even allow supportive legislators to present their proposals to Republican-dominated committees for public scrutiny and review.
Based on the failure of legislative leaders to initiate change on their own, Orlando attorney John Morgan went out of pocket, at his own expense, to orchestrate a statewide initiative to get medical marijuana on the ballot. Singularly undertaking the campaign and virtually using all his own resources, he sponsored the referendum to get enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot.
The Supreme Court of the State of Florida ruled that the issue presented to voters in the state was clear and concise, and that we should have a right to vote on its approval and adoption. In order to win, we would have to get to that magical 60%. Initially, it looked like we very well might. Polls showed numbers as high as 80% approval. Then greed kicked in.
Instead of coming to campaign to help win the initiative, and support the amendment, out of state marijuana enthusiasts and entrepreneurs infiltrated the state with a plethora of green dreams. It was an immeasurable ‘green rush’ paralleled with promises of unending wealth.
As a marijuana rights activist for decades, it has been sickening to watch. It wasn’t about marijuana being a medicine. It was about mad men becoming marijuana money magnates. Hell, New Times even did a cover story using that title.
As billboards and seminars began popping up all over the state telling people how rich they were going to get off ganja, greed mongers polluted and poisoned the debate, crushing the altruistic medicinal initiative, which was designed to assist individuals with debilitating conditions gain access to medicine with a prescription from their physician.
From federal parolees to Colorado carpetbaggers, lecturers spread their moneymaking message to the masses. What did Lord Alfred Tennyson say in a poem once? Oh yes, “this is not what I intended at all….”
As the outgoing national chairman of NORML- the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, I lectured in many of these early seminars. I was left stunned by the stupidity of the organizers.
I spent part of my time as a child growing up on a farm in Wurtsboro, New York. Farmer Arnold taught me early on never to count your chickens before they hatch. But in Florida, people were putting together business partnerships and gathering investments before a single citizen ever cast a vote to allow for them.
Entrepreneurs were invading Florida not to fund the initiative or drive the amendment but to pre-emptively and presumptively grow pot, open dispensaries, and sell edibles. They just assumed the campaign was won and weed would be on every corner. Of all the states to understand every vote counts, you would think the people of Florida, home of the Bush-Gore Calamity, had learned an enduring message in the year 2000.
All across the state, people started opening up colleges on how to grow pot. Lawyers were astoundingly selling franchises. Some local joke of a doctor was issuing prospective prescriptions, pre-qualifying people for medical use. In Jacksonville, some jerk of a lawyer was collecting $899 from Floridians and handing out medical identification cards. In Dade, some realtor was selling land he, on his own, decided would be perfect for growing.
The unfolding green rush was being presented as a financial boon to the state. The medical issue was being squashed under the weight of green greed. It was all so unreal, out of control, and unlike anything I had seen in any state seeking to ‘medicalize’ weed- and I have been doing this for over 25 years in a dozen states. The deluge of campaign ads against Amendment 2 aired all over the state exposed this unseemly rush, suggesting pot would soon be in every schoolyard.
Frankly, what I saw unfolding in Florida these past few months was frightening. The campaign was so transparently turning the public off, I am not all surprised we did not win 60% of support across the state. We were beaten by greed. I have been expecting it for weeks. In my heart, I knew we would win the vote but lose the super majority we needed to change the laws.
Marijuana is a medicine and you should be entitled to use it as such, quietly making this decision with a physician. Someday, even in Florida, you will. After all, it only takes 51 % to win an election. Pot got over 58%, more then either gubernatorial candidate. It’s the future, but in Florida, last night, make no mistake about it, green greed postponed the future.
Once again, an election in Florida has sent a message, and once again, it’s a national embarrassment.