Is it now legal to smoke weed in Florida? Amendment 2 expands use of medical marijuana


A movement to end marijuana prohibition emerged victorious on Election Day. Floridians overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2, which expands the use of medical marijuana, with a vote of 71.3% to 28.7%.

Florida's Amendment 2 calls for legalizing medical marijuana for patients with debilitating diseases that range from HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, cancer and other conditions that could allow the use of marijuana if recommended by a state-licensed doctor. The top three counties that massively voted in favor of Amendment 2 were Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, all located in the southern tip of the state.

A similar proposition failed two years ago. Despite 90% public support for medical marijuana at the time, a previous version of Amendment 2 fell three percentage points short of reaching the 60% threshold. However, medical marijuana was never fully illegal in the state, since Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a medical marijuana bill on June 16, 2014, which approved the use of a non-euphoric strain of marijuana called "Charlotte's Web," which is low in THC, as well as SB 1700, which protected identities of patients who use it.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP

While the population has widely supported the use of medical marijuana, the measure met some strong opposition. Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate who was also behind the campaign that previously defeated Amendment 2, and Mel Sembler, a developer, backed a group of medical marijuana detractors campaigning against Amendment 2. 

Opponents argued that the passage of Amendment 2 would generate thousands of unlicensed pot shops and production of cannabis candy for children. 

While the measure allows the state and the health department to regulate medical marijuana, it is still unclear how it will be implemented. According to the Miami Herald, the Florida Department of Health must pass regulations under the new amendment by July 2017. By October 2017, Florida must register growers and dispensaries and start issuing IDs for patients allowed to use medical marijuana.

As of Election Day, Florida joins Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota in the movement to pass or expand medical marijuana legalization, adding to a total of 28 states where patients can have access to it, and an additional 16 that allow limited medical access to marijuana.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, Tuesday's results will send shockwaves across the world: Similar initiatives to end marijuana prohibition in Europe and the Americas are "gaining momentum," and Mexico, Italy, Brazil and Argentina are also discussing medical marijuana legalization.