The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 12, 2014

Medical marijuana poised for ad-war win in Florida

MIAMI — Medical marijuana is so popular in Florida that 78 percent of likely voters in Republican-controlled state Senate districts back the idea, according to a recent state GOP poll obtained by The Miami Herald.

The survey echoes two others last month that found medical marijuana support ranging from 64 percent to 70 percent — results consistent with every major Florida public poll released in the past year.

And the favorable political environment for a proposed medical marijuana constitutional amendment isn’t just limited to public opinion.

Well-funded organized opposition is lacking right now. And, in an ironic twist, the most high-profile opponent of medical marijuana — Gov. Rick Scott — could indirectly and unintentionally help the proposed amendment, strategists say.

To win re-election, Scott’s campaign is likely to trigger a mammoth $150 million TV ad war, which could reduce the supply of available commercial advertising time, drive up the price of commercials and therefore make it tougher for outgunned anti-drug crusaders to get out their message.

“In an environment such as that, message-penetration can be challenging for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of money,” said Kyle Roberts, president of Virginia-based Smart Media Group, one of the nation’s premier political ad-buying firms.

The estimated $150 million that could be spent — $100 million from Scott and Republicans, $50 million from Democrat Charlie Crist — “can cause a lot of voter confusion when it comes to other issues on the ballot,” Roberts said.

Medical marijuana opponents have one major advantage, however: It takes 60 percent voter approval — a high bar — to pass a constitutional amendment in Florida. That means just a minority of voters can defeat the proposal at the Nov. 4 polls.

Opponents say the amendment would lead to pot legalization. Proponents, pointing to the amendment’s text, say it legalizes medical marijuana for those who have “debilitating” ailments as determined by a physician.

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