TALLAHASSEE, FL — Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is siding with opponents of an initiative on Florida’s November election ballot to make medical marijuana legal in the Sunshine State, despite strong public support for its use as an effective treatment for debilitating illnesses.
Bush, the former Republican governor who is considering a potential presidential bid in 2016, issued a statement on Thursday saying that the legalization of medical marijuana would hurt the state’s family-friendly reputation.
“Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism, and a desirable place to raise a family or retire,” Bush said in a statement.
“Allowing large-scale marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts. I believe it is the right of states to decide this issue, and I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November,” the statement continued.
The poll found that only 10 percent of voters oppose the measure, which will be on the November ballot as Amendment 2. Because it is a constitutional amendment, it will require 60% approval by voters in order to pass.
The poll also found a smaller majority of Florida voters would support recreational use of small amounts of marijuana by adults, with 55 percent backing it and 41 percent opposed.
Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, which is leading the push for medical marijana in Florida, said Thursday he was surprised that Bush had taken “a position so out of step with the voters who twice elected him to the highest office in the state.”
“Former Gov. Bush has always been an independent voice in the Republican Party, which may be why he’s chosen to take a position on compassionate medical marijuana policy that is at odds with Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Chris Christie and his other potential opponents for the 2016 presidential nomination — including the more nuanced position taken by his protege and possible primary opponent Sen. Marco Rubio, who at least supports the narrow medical marijuana law passed (nearly unanimously) by the Republican-led state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott,” Pollara said.
To date, 34 states and the District of Columbia — including Florida — have passed laws to allow the use of some form of medical marijuana, although the bills — and what’s allowed under them — vary widely.
Of those 35 jurisdictions, 23 states and the District of Columbia have enacted comprehensive medical marijuana laws, although programs in eight of those states are not yet operational. If Amendment 2 Passes, Florida would become the 24th state to enact a comprehensive medical marijuana law.
An additional 11 states, including Florida, have passed laws to allow patients to possess and use non-euphoric strains of marijuana and derived products high in cannabidiol, or CBD, but low in THC content, to treat symptoms of severe seizure disorders, including epilepsy.