Medical marijuana may hit Florida ballots in 2014
A group called United for Care is in the midst of a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Florida.
The organization is headed by prominent central Florida attorney, John Morgan.
WMNF spoke with Ben Pollara, the campaign manager for United For Care about where the effort is at and what still needs to be done.
"There are thousands upon thousands of people in the state of Florida who are suffering from diseases and conditions where their lives can be dramatically improved by the use of medical marijuana. That the fact that very, very, sick people in the state are living in fear of arrest or not seeking the relief that they need because they fear arrest is unacceptable and so we're trying to bring compassionate health care to those Floridians."
Do you have any examples of some of those individuals who could benefit from medical marijuana?
"We have literally hundreds of examples from people who have gone through chemo and radiation treatments, cancer, that the only way they can eat a decent meal or have a decent night's sleep is through the use of medical marijuana. Parents write in every day who have kids with severe epilepsy with dozens if not hundreds of seizures every day who have read up on medical marijuana and feel that if they could get it their children's lives would be greatly improved. People who write in and say 'this member of my family just passed away and their last six months on earth were just horrible, they wouldn't use medical marijuana despite pleas from myself and my siblings because they were afraid of getting arrested'. And then, of course, our chairman John Morgan his father died about 20-25 years ago of cancer and the last 6 months of his life the only way that he could eat dinner at night and have a decent night's sleep was through the medical marijuana that his brother brought to him."
So what is happening now with the initiative? Where are you guys at and what can we expect to see coming up in 2014?
"We are growing the process of gathering the 683,149 petitions that we need to get on the 2014 ballot. We've got about 105,000 verified according to the Florida Secretary of State's website. We've collected probably close to 200 at this point. We have a statewide volunteer operation going on right now, it's been going on for about 2 months with about 8 staffers across the state who are organizing volunteers and getting folks to events to collect petitions. We are starting back up very soon with a paid petition drive that's going to be statewide. Have a professional petition company go out and collect petitions across the state."
Florida is home to a very, very, high population of elderly individuals some of which who may be reluctant to support something such as having medical marijuana legalized. What are your efforts to kind of mitigate that possibility?
"First of all, that's not what our public opinion research has shown. We've shown () support across age demographic groups, party registration for medical marijuana. We expect to continue to see that. This is, in the minds of most Floridians, not a very controversial issue. If somebody is seriously sick and there's something out there that can help them, most people are in favor of that. That's why we've seen four polls in a row that have 70 percent or more support for medical marijuana."
Finally, if people want to get involved in this initiative what can they do?
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"The can go to www.unitedforcare.org and sign up as a volunteer. We've got volunteer coordinators all across the state so if people go to the website and sign up they'll be contacted very quickly either by email or phone by one of our regional coordinators to get them involved, get some petitions in their hand and get them out in the field."