Some 3,370,761 people -- almost 58 percent -- voted for medical marijuana in Florida. This total -- half a million more than Gov. Rick Scott and almost 900,000 more than voted no -- is clear proof that the people of Florida want a medical marijuana law.
Let's be clear: the ONLY reason medical marijuana didn't pass in November is because one of the richest men in the world funded over $5 million worth of false and misleading advertising on TV, radio and the Internet, and we simply did not have enough resources to counter the lies with facts in enough time. Despite being outspent on advertising 3-to-1, we still wound up with one of the highest percentages of support for medical marijuana ever seen in the country.
Sadly, it was not enough -- but 2016 promises greater turnout, more time to explain what the amendment does and doesn't do, and a head start of almost 3.4 million supporters.
We are going to pass a medical marijuana law in Florida by the end of 2016. It will happen one of two ways: legislative action or another constitutional amendment.
Legislatively, Florida for Care is working to draft and lobby for acceptable medical marijuana legislation -- and there are small signs of progress. This work will continue and ramp up as we get closer to the legislative session in the early spring.
Legislators should take heed of the election results. However, realistically, we are skeptical. Many of the same legislators in control worked actively against medical marijuana in the past and were opposed to Amendment 2.
NEW CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PUSH
While we hope legislators will pass an acceptable bill, we can't rely on that, and we are swiftly mobilizing a new petition push to get medical marijuana back on the ballot in 2016.
This new push should be easier in many ways. In 2014, we launched the petition only months prior to the deadline, and really were only able to kick it into high gear in the last two months. This time we will have 12 to 13 months to get signatures, and the benefit of massive amounts of exposure and momentum from the 2014 election. This momentum will create a lot of cost savings, as well. While we spent $4 million to get it on the ballot in 2014, we expect 2016 to be significantly less expensive -- and allow us to budget a lot more for statewide advertising.
Likewise, we will have that much more time to talk to voters and correct the falsehoods that their advertising blitz conveyed. We know from our post-election research that the more people who saw our ads, the more likely they were to vote for Amendment 2. Many people were misled by their scare tactics, and will learn that those loopholes they were told about weren't actually real.
Furthermore, the presidential election in 2016 will drive even more voters to the polls, and arguably, a stronger and more engaged electorate than were interested in the governor's race. We believe this broader swath of the public will be way more likely to pass medical marijuana, despite what we expect will be a new round of well-funded lies coming out of the other side.
Please pay attention. We expect to have the 2016 petition ready to launch in a few weeks or so. We will not stop until the patients of Florida get access to the medicine we know will help them.
Ben Pollara is the director of United for Care, the organization behind Amendment 2. He wrote this piece as an introduction to supporters to United for Care's new petition and fundraising drive.