Sunday, March 15, 2015
This new commentary, headlined "Medical marijuana question complicated for Florida GOP by 2016 ballot," highlights how the prospect of marijuana issues appearing on the ballot in 2016 can be used to push lawmakers to embrace reforms. Here is how the piece begins:
The unlikely pitch from medical marijuana legalization advocates to conservatives who control the Florida Legislature goes like this: Pass a law now — or risk hurting the GOP presidential candidate by having a referendum on the 2016 ballot.
A constitutional amendment would draw to the polls the younger, more liberal voters more likely to support medical pot, proponents say, helping the eventual Democratic nominee in the nation's largest swing state — possibly over Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, both homegrown Republicans. "Most people understand that, in a presidential year, medical marijuana will pass," said Jeff Kottkamp, the Republican former lieutenant governor who backs legalization. "They also know on the national level a Republican can't win without Florida."
But GOP leaders in Tallahassee aren't buying it. Medical marijuana supporters made a similar contention when the issue was on the ballot last year — both Rubio and Bush opposed it — yet Republican Gov. Rick Scott defeated Democrat Charlie Crist anyway. Many Crist voters didn't vote for the marijuana amendment, a post-election analysis showed. In fact, statewide ballot measures have failed to sway presidential elections in Florida time and time again.
The broad use of marijuana for medicinal purposes remains illegal — despite receiving support from nearly 58 percent of voters in November — because the state has a 60 percent threshold to adopt constitutional amendments. "I really don't think that it would ultimately impact the presidential campaign," said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, the St. Petersburg Republican who proposed this year's medical cannabis legislation in the Senate, SB 528. "I just think it's the right policy."