3 States Likely to Go for Medical Marijuana in 2016
While all eyes are on prospect that as many as 11 states may legalize full adult use of marijuana in 2016, something else is bubbling up underneath.
That something is Medical marijuana
This is, of course, hugely important for patients who want access to medicine without breaking the law. But it is also a way of building a deep bench for adult use legalization in 2018. States with well-functioning medical marijuana programs are more likely to be successful in taking the next big step.
Two states, Florida and Ohio, were near misses in 2014 and 2015. And one, Missouri, has been a bit of a sleeper.
Once and Future Florida
Amendment 2, sponsored by United for Care, will be on the ballot in Florida in November 2016. It bears the same designation and contains many of the same provisions as the initiative that failed in November 2014.
It would grant access to medical marijuana for patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions including, but not limited to:
- post-traumatic stress disorder;
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS);
- Crohn’s disease;
- Parkinson’s disease; and
- multiple sclerosis.
The measure differs from that introduced in 2014 in that it is slightly more restrictive in the conditions listed and it makes clear that minors could not have access to medical marijuana without parental consent.
The political handicapping is well underway. Because the initiative is a Constitutional amendment, it must garner at least 60 percent of the votes cast. The same was true in 2014, when the measure failed with 58 percent.
Many attribute the failure of the 2014 effort to a well-financed opposition campaign primarily funded by billionaire and GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Adelson put $5 million toward the opposition, which was approximately 85 percent of the total funding. Adelson’s opposition to legalized marijuana apparently remains undiminished.
The players are the same; the proposal is largely the same. A recent unscientific Orlando Business Journal poll measured public support for the measure at greater than 90 percent, approximately where it was last April, and higher than it had been in early 2014. Hopes for a different outcome seem largely pinned on the larger turnout of young voters anticipated in a presidential election year.
How You Can Get Involved in Florida
The best place to start is United for Care’s website. There you can learn about opportunities to volunteer, contribute and find more information. They have a Facebook page specifically for volunteers.
Another great resource for information about Florida’s Amendment 2 is the Florida page of the Marijuana Policy Project’s website. Take a look, as well, at their Action tab, which is essentially a kit for concrete action. The Service Employees International Union of Florida has also endorsed Amendment 2. If you are an SEIU member, contact your local for additional information.
Different This Time, Ohio
Ohio has been a hotbed of legalization activity ever since an effort to legalize marijuana for adult use failed in November 2015. At least three efforts are currently underway.
The national advocacy organization, Marijuana Policy Project, has recently announced its support for a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana. Language has yet to be drafted, but it is anticipated that the measure would allow patients with serious medical conditions access to cannabis under conditions similar to the proposals MPP has backed in Alaska, Arizona and Colorado.
Separately, a group, known as Legalize Ohio 2016 or Ohioans to End Prohibition, has thrown its weight behind a constitutional amendment to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana. Some see a similarity to last year’s effort by ResponsibleOhio, but the measure would not include the exclusive grant of licenses to investors that had doomed Issue 3 at the ballot box.
It is also possible that Ohio legislators may act. A House task force charged with weighing the benefits and risks of legalizing medical marijuana has been assembled and is expected to report to the state legislature by the end of March. Evening meetings of the House task force will be held at 7pm on February 18, February 25 and March 10 at the State House. A Senate task force has separately heard testimony in Cleveland and expects to convene hearings in Toledo and Cincinnati.
Why should the result in Ohio be different this time?
Observers note four factors:
- Public opinion in favor of medical legalization runs at close to 90 percent;
- There is simply a lot of activity in support of some form of legalization;
- Trying to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana in 2014 may have been a bridge too far: medical alone may be more doable; and
- The support of MPP, which sat out the last contest, could be a significant factor in mobilizing the resources necessary for a petition drive.
How You Can Get Involved in Ohio
The situation is still somewhat formational in Ohio, and more may yet shake out in the next few weeks.
Ohioans for Medical Marijuana is reportedly organizing an effort to get medical marijuana on the ballot, but most of the activity seems to be taking place at the national level at MPP, so far. Legalize Ohio 2016 has a better-defined state level presence and their website offers an opportunity to contribute and a form that potential volunteers can submit in order to be contacted. Both groups appear to be organizing testimony before the task forces.
Missouri? Who Knew?
New Approach Missouri has received approval from the Missouri Secretary of State to begin collecting signatures for a petition to place a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot. The proposal would permit access for a very broad range of conditions, including:
- conditions causing severe muscle spasms, like multiple sclerosis, seizures and Parkinson’s disease;
- as a substitute for prescription medications that may cause dependence;
- terminal illnesses; or
- at the discretion of the physician for other serious conditions including HIV/AIDS, irritable bowel syndrome, cachexia, and Alzheimer’s disease, among others.
Unscientific polling by the Rolla Daily News, the St. James Leader-Journal and the Waynesville Daily Guide suggests broad support for medical legalization. Although flying under the radar, political organizing around the issue has been going on for years, and proposals to liberalize medical marijuana laws have become a staple in the state legislature. If politically conservative Missouri can embrace medical marijuana, advocates reason, the sky’s the limit.
How You Can Get Involved in Missouri
New Approach Missouri’s website is probably the best place to start. There you can find opportunities to volunteer, contribute, or set up your own fundraising page for them. The site has also posted a schedule of signature gathering events, which is a great way to meet up with other activists. Their Facebook page is a great way to stay on top of developments as they occur.
Show-Me Cannabis, a coalition of organizations that support the New Approach initiative, has its own site, with opportunities to contribute and volunteer. The Education link under the “More” tab offers additional information about medical cannabis, criminal justice and public policy, among other subjects.
Many advocates take the position that the future of medical marijuana may be bigger and brighter than its recreational cousin. Its importance in combating disease and promoting wellness is still relatively unexplored. In 2016, medical cannabis may be a stealth issue, both because it appeals to a wide segment of the voting population and because it may bring compassionate relief to many unreached by mainstream medicine.