Medical marijuana is polling strong in Florida.
There are several constitutional amendments on the November ballot. One of them, Amendment 2 — Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions — is a retread from the 2014 election.
Two years ago, the slightly different version of the amendment received 58 percent of the vote, falling just short of the 60 percent needed to pass. It appeared on the ballot as Amendment 2 then, too.
Polls showed support for the amendment exceeded the 60 percent threshold until a strong and well-financed opposition went on the attack. Billionaire casino boss Sheldon Adelson — resident of Nevada — was a major financial backer of the “No on 2” effort.
They relied on doomsday scenarios and scare tactics to chip away at Amendment 2’s support. They enlisted the help of some of Florida’s most popular politicians — the sheriffs.
They were better financed and able to create doubt. They pointed to ballot language that was drafted somewhat loosely to allow the Legislature to determine its implementation. Opponents exploited this deference to lawmakers as a flaw in the language and questioned the motivation of the effort to legalize medical marijuana.
Orlando attorney John Morgan is the man behind United for Care — the political committee organized to sponsor the amendment. Motivated by his brother’s need for marijuana to ease debilitating pain, Morgan has been passionate about the cause. He put his money where his mouth was — to the tune of several million dollars.
Not deterred by coming up a little short, Morgan and United for Care jumped through all the hoops again. They redrafted the language to address the misguided concerns, collected 692,981 verified signatures and passed Florida Supreme Court review.
Ben Pollara of United for Care said the new language more clearly delineates the eligible medical conditions, including cancer, AIDs, epilepsy, glaucoma and others. It also requires parental consent and verification for minors.
There are other factors that might point to a successful outcome the second time around.
The Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation that would allow terminal patients to be prescribed full-strength medical marijuana, signaling a softening in position.
This election year — with a hotly contested presidential race on the ballot — turnout is expected to be much higher. Remember, the first ballot proposal failed by only two percentage points. So what do the polls show?
A PPP poll taken early this year showed 65 percent of Florida voters would support the medical marijuana initiative — 28 percent opposed. Support crossed party lines: Democrats 75/18, independents 70/20 and Republicans 53/40.
Saint Leo University has also been polling the issue. In March 68 percent of respondents agreed that the Legislature should approve medical marijuana.
Legislators did but the newly passed legislation applied only to dying patients, leaving thousands of others without relief for their suffering.
In June, a Saint Leo poll showed 65 percent of respondents support Amendment 2 granting the right to use marijuana for medical treatment of terminal and these non-terminal ailments.
The most recent poll, taken in September and released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, shows support has grown to 73 percent of voters.
If Amendment 2 passes in November, which looks promising, Florida would be the 25th state to approve medical marijuana.
The well-funded opposition, including Adelson, is back, but public opinion is shifting and support is growing for compassionate care for those suffering debilitating illness.
Here are comments from a couple of people who wrote me:
• "I’m a 100% disabled vet from Maine; I have been a medical marijuana patient for about five years. Maine was listed as one of the best programs in the country, yet I winter in Florida. So do I have to become a criminal to take my legally prescribed meds in Florida or suffer? I take it because of wounds I received in Vietnam."
• "I’m a 60-year-old woman. I’ve had four discs removed from my neck and have had a portion of my lower spine removed and have six plates and a clamp and am in constant pain due to my disability. I find that after the medical people put me on opioids, I was sick all the time and led a zombie type life. A friend gave me a marijuana cigarette and it helped with my pain and I wasn’t vomiting. My appetite returned. I am buying it now to help with my condition but would like to do this legally as I am an upstanding citizen."
Let’s show compassion for these folks and thousands of others suffering like them by voting YES on Amendment 2 to allow them to access safe, regulated, doctor-ordered medical marijuana.
Paula Dockery (PBDockery@gmail.com.) is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland.