Medical marijuana debate continues as elections approach

Issue will be decided by voters Nov. 4

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's not on the primary ballot, but it is in your near future, and it's something everyone's talking about.

The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, or Amendment 2, will be on the ballot on Nov. 4. Voters will decide if cannabis will be allowed as a medical treatment for those with a doctor's recommendation. It's already causing a lot of debate between candidates, including those running for governor.

Some call the amendment for medical marijuana the answer to their prayers: a ray of hope for adults and children suffering from horrible diseases.

"I saw the improvement immediately," said Moriah Barnhart, whose daughter Dahlia has a rare form of brain cancer and takes cannabis oil as a treatment. "Her quality-of-life, and also in the MRI scans. The tumor is shrinking."

Others, like the Florida Sheriff's Association, are vehemently opposed to medical marijuana.

"We will have medical marijuana in every backpack in every school in Duval County," said Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford. "You can pretty much bet on that."

It's one of the hottest topics on November's ballot and could affect other political races.

University of North Florida political science professor Matthew Corrigan said it could be especially influential in the governor's race.

"If you have an initiative that is controversial and high profile, it could impact overall voter turnout," Corrigan told News4Jax.

Republican Rick Scott is against Amendment 2, while Democrat Charlie Crist supports it.

"If you yell more about it, it increases awareness about it," Corrigan said. "And those voters who care more about medical marijuana and social issues vs. the governor's race, maybe, may come out to vote for medical marijuana and at the same time then vote in the governor's race and probably lean toward Crist."

A number of polls show overwhelming support for the amendment. It needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. If it passes, it'll be up to state lawmakers and the Florida Department of Health to set the rules.

"The Legislature is going to have to make substantial changes in the Florida statutes just to deal with marijuana, to deal with who has it," said defense attorney Gene Nichols. "To deal with how it is going to get from one place to another, how you can hold it, how you can keep it."

Nichols said leaders will have to re-write the laws and do it in a way that makes everyone happy.

"If this gets passed, lawmakers are going to have to adapt to it over and over and over again as the years go by," Nichols said.

But for now, these are all just possibilities, because the voters will have the say-so in just a few months on Nov. 4.