How Did Florida Pass Its Medical Marijuana Initiative? Ben Pollara Tells All

Published on November 8, 2016 · Last updated July 28, 2020
How Did Florida Pass Its Medical Marijuana Initiative? Ben Pollara Tells All

We spoke with Ben Pollara, political consultant and campaign manager for Florida’s medical marijuana United for Care campaign, to provide some context on the factors that helped pass the state’s long-anticipated medical cannabis initiative. Pollara weighs in below.

Ben Pollara giving a victory speech in Orlando after Amendment 2 passed

Key factors in Florida’s medical marijuana legalization campaign:

“Just the passage of time [since this was on the ballot two years ago but failed to get enough votes to pass]. It’s been an extended dialogue with voters. It’s been a presidential versus a non-presidential electorate. We had the opportunity to write the law a second time. Last time the opposition ran a technical campaign – it was an ‘anti-this law’ campaign. This time around, what was wrong with the law, we fixed. Whether the arguments against it were logical or not, we rewrote the law this time to dispense with those arguments.

“Also, there have been microcosms within Florida – Orlando and Miami and other cities and counties here in Florida have been decriminalizing on their own in the last 1.5 years. And that was impactful because those efforts almost all occurred either at the urging of police chiefs and law enforcement officials, or with the full support of those law enforcement officials.

“And, none of this could have happened without the support of John Morgan. He’s a hero for hundreds of thousands of patients suffering.”

On how the opposition was different this time:

“Sheldon Adelson put in $5.5 million last time versus $1M this time, and it’s not too surprising; you don’t get to be the ninth-richest man in the world throwing good money after bad.”

On the potential fallout of a southern state passing medical marijuana:

“I mean, we have 20 years of history. We know what happens when people get medical marijuana is… people get medical marijuana. The unintentional consequences are few and far between.”

On the economic significance of medical marijuana legalization in Florida:

“Florida is quickly going to be the second-largest legal marijuana market in the world after California. This is a gigantic deal. We are a gigantic state. To win by a gigantic margin. In a swing state, the first southeastern swing state to legalize… whether the reform movement has moved past medical marijuana or not, it is a huge deal.”

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Katie Matlack
Katie Matlack
Katie lives in Austin, where she writes for the Texas Observer, the Austin Chronicle, Leafly, and VICE Sports.
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