70ºF

Florida voters approve medical marijuana expansion

Tax exemption amendments also approved; Solar measure rejected

photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida voters have approved a state constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, which will broaden access to pot beyond the limited therapeutic uses approved by the legislature two years ago.

Currently, the law allows non-smoked, low-THC pot for patients with cancer or ailments that cause chronic seizures or severe spasms. The ballot measure broadens access for diseases with symptoms other than seizures or spasms.

The measure lists 10 illnesses: cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis. It also allows doctors to prescribe pot for any other similar kind of ailment.

A similar ballot measure narrowly failed in 2014, when opponents expressed concerns including that children wouldn't be adequately protected. Proponents said loopholes were closed this time, including parental consent for underage patients.

Solar amendment rejected

Florida voters have rejected a utility-funded ballot measure that would have opened the door for changes to the system of credit earned by homeowners who install solar panels and produce surplus energy.

Currently, solar owners who send extra power back into the energy grid earn credit that can offset the price of any energy they might use, in what is known as "net metering." Such homeowners might produce all of their own power -- and then some -- during sunny periods.

They might draw electricity during cloudy periods but will have no net cost if it was offset by power they previously had made available to other users.

Utility companies argue that solar homeowners unfairly take advantage of infrastructure costs paid by other customers, and Amendment 1 would have allowed them to make changes to the state's net metering system.

Other amendments approved

In two issues that received relatively little attention, voters overwhelmingly approved constitutional amendments that will create property-tax breaks for disabled first responders and some seniors.

The proposals, known as amendments 3 and 5, were placed on the ballot by the Legislature.

Amendment 3 will allow lawmakers to grant property-tax exemptions for first responders who are totally and permanently disabled because of injuries suffered in the line of duty. With more than 8 million votes counted statewide, the measure had support from more than 83 percent of voters.

Amendment 5, meanwhile, was aimed at allowing low-income seniors to continue receiving an additional homestead tax exemption when their property values rise above $250,000. It was being backed by about 78 percent of voters.

 

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.