Florida Medical marijuana petition sees increased support ahead of January deadline

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United for Care's petition to legalize medical marijuana in Florida saw what campaign manager Ben Pollara calls "a record-breaking week of signatures." Using volunteer and paid petitioners, United for Care gathered over 100,000 last week alone. "The week before we got 80,000, and 60,000 signatures the week before that," Pollara told CL Tuesday.

"It's growing by leaps and bounds," he said. "We're on track to get close to one million signatures."

At the end of November, Creative Loafing reported that the citizen-driven petition only had about 350,000 signatures. Pollara says United for Care calculates they've got about 700,000 signed petitions today. That's still about 300,000 short of the targeted one million signatures, despite the fact the petition only needs 683,149 to get on the ballot.

"We have to factor in a 25 percent rejection rate," he said. "Some people will sign more than once, some think they're registered and aren't, some aren't registered in Florida or in the county they signed in."

Reaching the number of petitions needed, rejection rate considered, is still up for grabs, but Pollara remains confident they'll get it done with enough help (and funding from attorney John Morgan).

The state Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the amendment on Dec. 5, but has until April to issue a ruling.

"We drafted the amendment months ago and talked through anticipated arguments against us," Pollara says. "And not a whole lot that came from our opponents was unanticipated … We had our day in court and now it's out of our hands."

Now it's crunch time for the campaign, as signatures need to be in by the beginning of the second week in January.

"We're turning over every stone," Pollara says. "We're absolutely concerned but very confident. Our concerns are logistical, like do we have enough people collecting petitions? Will the weather hold out? Right now I'm in South Florida and its 78 degrees and partly cloudy, ideal petition weather. It'll be tougher when it gets colder."

Man power, the weather and the holidays — all elements Pollara says are "out of our control" — could determine the fate of the initiative. And, of course, getting those that have yet to sign the petition to give their Florida-registered and county-specific John Hancock.

"It doesn't matter what you feel about marijuana or medical marijuana. If you're against it, sign the petition and vote no," Pollara said. "Signing the petition just means you believe this issue should be taken to the voters."

With the recent Quinnipiac poll finding 82 percent of Floridians in favor of medical marijuana legalization, simply getting the amendment on the ballot bodes well for medical legalization in the state.

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