The day after Amendment 2 failed, supporters of medical marijuana began preparing for rounds two and three: Business groups and sympathetic lawmakers plan to push new laws next spring, and John Morgan vows another statewide referendum effort in 2016.
Last spring the Legislature approved one non-euphoric form of marijuana dubbed “Charlotte’s Web,” mainly for use by people with intractable epilepsy and similar debilitating neurological disorders.
A lawmaker behind that law, state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R- Shalimar, and another who pushed a bill for full medical-marijuana legalization, state Rep. Jeff Clemons, D-Lake Worth, each said Wednesday they hope the Legislature will consider broader marijuana legislation this year.
“I firmly believe there is more meat on that bone for the Legislature in dealing with medical cannabis,” Gaetz said.
Meanwhile, Morgan, who championed Amendment 2, said Wednesday he is hopeful for another attempt because many opponents never said they opposed medical marijuana; they just didn’t like the wording of Amendment 2, which can be changed.
He also said that although the 57 percent of Florida voters who voted yes Tuesday fell short of the necessary 60 percent, it’s still an impressive majority.
“If the first battle determined how wars turned out, you know, Great Britain would be called Germany, and we’d be kissing kings’ asses,” he said. “So that’s now how it works with me. This is just the first battle, and I plan to win the war.”
At least some opponents, such as Calvina Fay, executive director of St. Petersburg-based Drug Free America Foundation, are ready to fight back again.
She said any expansion of medical-marijuana legalization in Florida must consider the prospects for more impaired drivers, young people being exposed to it and harmful effects of the drug. She called for research first, to find out which compounds in marijuana are beneficial.
“Marijuana is a drug,” Fay said. “The key is to find out what is helpful and separate that from what is harmful, and find a way to deliver it in a safe way.”
In the past year, medical-cannabis businesses and lobbying associations, including the Winter Park-based Florida Medical Cannabis Association and the Tampa-based The Florida Cannabis Coalition, sprang up throughout Florida.
Those two groups said Wednesday they expect their business interests to go to Tallahassee to lobby the Florida Legislature to consider legalizing medicinal uses of at least certain forms of marijuana. The Florida Cannabis Coalition’s Tom Quigley estimated a fully legalized medical-marijuana industry in Florida could be worth $785 million a year. The Florida Medical Cannabis Association’s Louis Rotundo called the industry “a jobs creator.”
“The pressure from the business interests is going to be intense,” Clemons said.
Morgan said he prefers another amendment drive because he does not trust the Legislature. But he also described his plan as a strategic move, because it could force the Legislature to attempt to legalize medical marijuana in order to avoid facing another amendment battle, this time on a presidential ballot in 2016.
“The national Republican Party does not want this on the [Florida] ballot in 2016,” Morgan said.
Ultimately, medical-marijuana activity in the Legislature would be regulated by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.
“We feel like we did the right thing last year with the Charlotte’s Web approach,” Cristafulli said. “I’m one of those that’s ‘never say never.’ But the legislative process is where that issue should be dealt with, instead of a ballot initiative.”
Aaron Deslatte of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.