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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Seven in 10 Florida voters support a state constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, according to a new poll sponsored by a group working to put the measure on the 2014 ballot. That’s big news, because it’s more than enough to assure approval of a voter initiative and possibly enough to affect the governor’s race.

Medical marijuana’s popularity cuts across party and demographic lines, with the lowest level of support — among Republicans — at a majority 56 percent, according to the poll, which was conducted for the group People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), reports Marc Caputo at The Miami Herald.

Overwhelming support among Democrats and independents brings the overall percentage in favor of the amendment to 70 percent, with just 24 percent opposed, according to the poll.

Medical marijuana seemed to be most popular in the cities of Miami and Orlando. Interestingly, in contrast to some state polls which have shown higher levels of support for medical marijuana among males, white women were among the most likely to back the measure. Also supportive were blacks and Hispanics, two Democratic-leaning groups.

Pollster David Beattie: "Quote" [Kevin Cate/Roll Call]
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Pollster David Beattie:
“The proposal to allow the medical use of marijuana could provide a message contrast in the governor’s race, heightening its effectiveness as a turnout mechanism”
[Kevin Cate/Roll Call]

These groups could be more likely to turn out to vote in 2014 if medical marijuana is on the ballot, according to the poll.

“Supporters of the proposed amendment are less certain to cast ballots in the 2014 governor’s race,” said David Beattie, pollster for Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat. Beattie wrote an analysis of the poll of 600 registered voters, taken January 30-February 3 by his firm, Hamilton Campaigns.

“The proposal to allow the medical use of marijuana could provide a message contrast in the governor’s race, heightening its effectiveness as a turnout mechanism,” Beattie said.

Still, Beattie warned, “don’t frame turnout efforts on passage of the ballot initiative in a partisan way.”

Fundraiser Ben Pollara: "Quote" [SaintPetersBlog]
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PUFMM Treasurer Ben Pollara:
“The poll numbers were very encouraging. But it’s still a Herculean effort”
[SaintPetersBlog]

“The poll numbers were very encouraging,” said Ben Pollara, former fundraiser for Sen. Nelson and also for Hillary Cliinton. “But it’s still a Herculean effort,” said Pollara, who has signed up as PUFMM’s treasurer.

Florida’s Legislature, seemingly frightened to death of anything that places actual power in the hands of voters, have made it very tough to place measures on the ballot by citizen petition. To quality for the 2014 ballot, PUFMM needs the valid signatures of 683,149 Florida voters; estimates for how much that will cost run up to $3.5 million.

PUFMM has only $41,000, and has collected only 100,000 signatures, not all of which are valid. Some were collected as long ago as 2009, and might not still be valid, according to The Miami Herald.

But PUFMM’s Florida director, Kimberly Russell, said the group hopes this new poll and the top-notch campaign strategists on the team could turn things around.

Kim Russell, PUFMM: "Quote"
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Kim Russell, PUFMM:
“If we get this on the ballot, we have a great chance of getting it passed”

“If we get this on the ballot, we have a great chance of getting this passed,” Russell said. “The more these pass in other states, the more people support it everywhere else.”

Support has increased in the Sunshine State since 2011, when Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s pollster surveyed voters on the issue. Even that poll, taken by Tony Fabrizio, found strong support for medical marijuana, with 57 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed. Gov. Scott opposes medical marijuana, and most anything else with the faintest hint of making any sense.

Passing a constitutional amendment is tougher in Florida than in many other states, largely due to the 60 percent threshold. Sixty percent? Yes. To amend the state constitution in Florida, a simple 50.1 percent majority isn’t enough; you must have 60 percent.

Florida voters seem to have mixed emotions about overall legalization, as opposed to medical marijuana. A plurality, 49 percent, say pot should remain illegal, while about 40 percent say it should be legalized, the poll shows.

But when asked if marijuana should be “regulated and taxed like alcohol and cigarettes,” 68 percent favored doing that, with 27 percent opposed. Go figure!

An overwhelming 81 percent of voters said doctors should be able to recommend marijuana to patients without fear of arrest or loss of license, while 14 percent were opposed. One of five of those opposed, though, said they’d change their mind and vote yes if a doctor recommended marijuana to a family member suffering from a “serious illness.”

For two years, the Florida House refused to even hear a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed citizens to vote on the issue. That plan’s sponsor, Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth), said he plans this week to release a medical marijuana bill in the Legislature — instead of a ballot initiative.

Sen. Clemens said legislators “didn’t like” the proposed constitutional amendment because “it wasn’t specific enough.” He’ll present his medical marijuana bill to the Legislature along with Rep. Katie Edwards (D-Plantation).

 

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