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Medical marijuana makes the ballot — Now, Volusia organizers will work to get out the vote
By Pat Andrews
posted Jan 29, 2014 - 12:02:26pm
Signature-gatherers who have been hard at work in Volusia County and across Florida have two victories to celebrate.
First, as of Jan. 24, proponents of the use of marijuana for medical purposes gathered enough signatures to put their proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot.
Second, on Jan. 27, the Florida Supreme Court approved the wording of the amendment by a 4-3 vote.
Statewide, 755,443 signatures on petitions were submitted requesting a constitutional amendment for medical uses of marijuana; 683,149 signatures were required.
In Volusia County, 29,250 voters signed the petition, according to the Elections Office.
To place a citizen initiative on the general-election ballot requires the signatures of 8 percent of the number of voters who voted in the last presidential election. In 2012 elections, 235,254 Volusia County residents voted in the presidential election.
Volusia’s signatures for the medical-marijuana initiative account for 12 percent of the county’s 2012 presidential vote.
Retired schoolteacher Barbara Grimm of Orange City volunteered tirelessly to gather signatures for the medical-marijuana effort, United for Care. She even had to stand her ground when officers of the law tried a couple of times to stop her work.
Grimm was jubilant about the effort’s victories.
"We're very excited," Grimm said. "It was almost a family effort."
The signers represent an across-the-board consensus of voters, she said, including Republicans, Independents and Democrats.
Many of the signers had personal stories to tell, about themselves or family members who had suffered from cancer and could have benefited from the pain-relieving and appetite-enhancing effects of marijuana. Some of them, Grimm said, volunteered to help get more signatures.
“Now, if we can get the voters out, I think it will pass," she said.
Marijuana therapeutically helps some cancer and AIDS patients by stimulating appetite and controlling nausea, and helping control pain. It also helps control muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, and helps with seizure disorders and Crohn's disease, according to WebMD. The federal Food and Drug Administration has approved THC, the key ingredient in marijuana, for prescription use.
Florida, so far, has not approved it, leading to the push spearheaded by the Orlando law firm of Morgan & Morgan to get the amendment on the ballot.
The movement has had opposition from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and legislative opponents who said the amendment is too broad and would lead to legalization of marijuana under the guise of compassionate medicine.
Bondi, along with Gov. Rick Scott, have issued statements continuing their opposition to the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.
The amendment’s ballot summary states marijuana would be allowed for medical use for debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician. The Department of Health will register and regulate centers that produce and distribute the marijuana, and will issue ID cards to patients and caregivers.
So far, 20 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized medical marijuana under state laws.
How will West Volusians vote on the amendment?
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— The News Service of Florida contributed to this story.
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