On the Buzz, the Tampa Bay Times political blog, reporter Alex Leary has a post that's titled "Pro-pot measure in Colorado could complicate Florida effort."
If you read the piece, the theory behind that headline apparently is a quote from Kim Russell from PUMM, People United for Medical Marijuana. She says that if weed is outright legalized in any of the three states that are voting on the issue this year (they are Colorado, Washington and Oregon), it could provide an argument for medical marijuana critics who say such an initiative in Florida is simply the first step toward legalization. But then she says that it could open the floodgates for getting the amendment passed here.
As a reporter who has written several pieces in CL over the years on the subject, let me intervene here.
There were actually efforts to get such an initiative on the ballot in Florida in both 2010 and 2012, efforts that ultimately went nowhere. Whether over 600,000 signatures can be acquired to get such an amendment on the 2014 ballot remains to be seen. But Florida certainly has been lagging on this effort when you realize that 17 other states in the country now do have such a law. If you look at the map, most of those states are in the West and the Northeast, plus one state in the Midwest, Michigan. There are no states in the South that have such a law.
Big money supporters of medical marijuana have indicated that they won't put any money into an effort in Florida until it's proven that there are people on the ground in Florida who are serious. Kim Russell and PUMM are extremely serious, but they have little indigenous financial backing. And trying to get that many signatures takes a serious, organized and sustained effort that hasn't been there.
So whether pot gets legalized in any of those states next month (and Washington looks most promising), if that's the latest reason why advocates say Florida won't get such a measure on the ballot it might make one think it will never happen. With the rare exception (such as passing a law raising the minimum wage in 2004), Florida in the past decade hasn't been progressive about much at all.
One issue that used to bring Republicans and Democrats together in Florida was on protecting the environment. With the push a few years ago for drilling off the state's coast, that bit of bipartisanship took a hit. Yesterday the president of the Sierra Club came to St. Petersburg to speak up on the issue.
Fox News' Judge Andrew Napolitano came to Tampa yesterday in an event sponsored by the Koch Brothers-led Americans for Prosperity Super PAC. The judge spent half of his speech blasting politicians from both sides of the aisle for supporting the 2001 U.S. Patriot Act.
And there's one place where Barack Obama hasn't lost much of his aura — college campuses, at least in Tampa.