Final push to get medical marijuana on ballot

Supervisor of Elections Office has verified 50K petitions this month

Author: Chris Parenteau, General assignment reporter, cparenteau@wjxt.com
Christopher Yazbec, News editor, News4Jax.com, cyazbec@wjxt.com
Published On: Jan 15 2014 03:02:59 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 15 2014 06:49:25 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The final push is on to try to get enough signatures on a petition to have the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida on the ballot for the 2014 general election.

The signatures have to be verified by Jan. 31 to qualify for the 2014 election.

For the group trying to get the amendment on the ballot, the process is almost over, and it feels it has enough signatures needed to get on the ballot.

For supervisor of elections offices around the state, the process is really picking up right now.

In Duval County, Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland says his office has received more than 50,000 signed petitions for the medical marijuana amendment since the beginning of this year. The office has a full staff working to verify all the signatures because there is no extension for the deadline.

"We gear up for it, we know it's coming," Holland said. "We have all hands on deck working on it. They have done a phenomenal job knocking out almost 50,000 since the first of the year."

Once the petitions are turned in, they are verified like an absentee ballot would be, making sure the birth date, address and signature all match what is on file.

For the group United for Care, which is leading the charge, members know that means getting far more than the 680,000 signatures needed to get it on the ballot.

"We are very confident we will be able to get this on the ballot," Ben Pollara, who's part of the group. "We believe we have enough signatures to get on, and we have huge faith in the supervisor of elections capabilities to get them counted in time."

"The petitioners know that they need to get the signatures in to us as early as possible," Holland said. "It's only the ones we have validated by the 31st."

Pollara said that's why the group will stop collecting signatures within the next 48 hours so it can get as many verified as possible. The group says the issue is one of the most important ones to hit the ballot in recent years.

"We are trying to bring that to them so they can pursue the treatment that their doctors are recommending without having to live like a criminal," Pollara said.

Holland said his office expects to get between 5,000 and 10,000 more petitions before Jan. 31, so it will be all hands on deck for his office and many others around the state for the next two weeks.

If the petition falls short of the 680,000 verified signatures needed to get on the ballot by the deadline, the ones that have been verified are good for up to two years. So the group can try to get it on the ballot in another year, which members say they will likely do if this one falls short.