Florida Democrats are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would put medical marijuana on the state’s ballot this November. If the initiative passes, Florida would become the first southern state to legalize some form of marijuana usage. Recent Battleground polls have shown widespread support, especially among young voters.
In a previous MPP blog post, we discussed how about 70% of voters (nationwide) would be more likely to vote this fall if marijuana was on the ballot, and how midterm elections traditionally have lower voter turnout, especially with young voters and liberals. In the 2012 elections, Washington and Colorado both saw significant spikes in voter turnout, possibly due to marijuana being on the ballot. If Florida follows suit, it will be a testament to marijuana’s spillover effect.
Florida Democrats are hoping it “could have a marginal impact,” which doesn’t sound like much, but “a marginal impact in Florida could be the difference between winning and losing,” according to Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant who managed Obama’s Florida campaign in 2008.
A recent Republican victory in a special House election last month typified the Democrats’ turnout problem. The St. Petersburg-area district has 2.4 percent more registered Republicans than Democrats, but GOP voters outnumbered Democrats by eight percentage points, according to election results.
Today, Oklahomans for Health submitted an application for petition with Oklahoma Secretary of State, Chris Benge, which proposes to add a question to the November ballot asking whether or not Oklahomans should legalize medical marijuana for serious conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
The initiative would call for the reclassification of marijuana as an herbal drug, which would be regulated by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. It would also create licensing and regulatory rules for cultivation and distribution through dispensaries. Patients wanting to use medical marijuana would need to pay a $125 application fee for a medical marijuana card and have an Oklahoma board-certified physician provide a recommendation.
The proposed initiative comes at a time when support for medical marijuana is growing in the state with a recent poll showing 71% approval rate for decriminalizing medical marijuana. A rally was held at the State Capital in February, where parents of epileptic children came to talk to their representatives. Even Josh Stanley of Strains of Hope, featured on WEEDS by Sanjay Gupta, showed up to support Oklahomans in their plight.
Although Oklahoma has some of the harshest marijuana laws, Chip Paul, Chairman of Oklahomans for Health, believes the “language in this initiative…should be a very easy thing for the state of Oklahoma to manage.”
The annual WMUR Granite State Poll released Wednesday by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows a growing majority of New Hampshire adults support making marijuana legal and regulating it like alcohol.
The survey found 55% percent support making possession of small amounts of marijuana legal in New Hampshire — up from 53% in 2013 — and 67% approve of marijuana being sold in licensed retail outlets and taxed at levels similar to alcohol if marijuana possession becomes legal.
The poll also found that three out of five New Hampshire adults (61%) support House Bill 1625, a measure approved by the State House of Representatives and now being considered by the Senate that would reduce the penalty for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a $100 civil fine. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
On Tuesday, Yvette Alexander, District of Columbia Council member for Ward 7, introduced the Medical Marijuana Expansion Amendment Act of 2014. The bill would amend the previous qualifying conditions list restricting D.C. patients’ access to medical marijuana. Currently, a doctor can only recommend medical marijuana for four conditions (HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, and multiple sclerosis).
Marijuana has been found to help treat a wide variety of conditions beyond those that qualify a patient for the D.C. program. Alexander’s bill would strike out the qualifying conditions list altogether and permit the physician to make the decision as to whether or not medical marijuana would benefit a patient. This way, doctors wouldn’t have to be constrained by politics or wait for government officials to pass laws every time new benefits are discovered.
According to an NBC Washington report, all 13 Council members are in favor of this amendment. Even the Health Department Director, Joxel Gracia, testified that recommending medical marijuana should be up to doctors instead of government officials.
D.C.’s prohibitive medical marijuana laws have been largely ineffective, only protecting about 250 patients of the estimated 40,000 eligible patients living in the District since the current law went into effect in 2013. However, the bill would amend neither the rules governing the heavily regulated process by which a patient acquires a medical marijuana card, nor the rules controlling cultivation and distribution
Hearings on the new medical marijuana bill are likely to begin in early May of this year, with a vote following soon after.
A report released yesterday by Rhode Island-based OpenDoors estimates that passage of the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act will generate between $21.5 to $82 million in annual tax revenue. Although it would not completely solve Rhode Island’s budget woes, revenue from legal sales of marijuana to adults could help ease the financial burdens the state is facing.
Every day across Rhode Island, otherwise law-abiding men and women purchase and consume marijuana illegally. Proceeds from these sales go untaxed and only serve to enrich criminal actors. Bringing adult marijuana sales above board allows the state to tax both wholesale and retail marijuana transactions and provides much greater transparency over who sells it, where, and to whom.
In addition to the generating revenue, passage of the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act will create hundreds of jobs in an emerging industry.