News & Politics

Florida Moves to Legalize Low-THC Medical Marijuana, Is Recreational Pot Next?

Those with cancer and other severe ailments can keep small amounts of low-THC medical pot.

Photo Credit: Zerbor/

Floridians are poised to legalize medical marijuana for some patients, but there's wide support to legalize it for recreational use as well. If medical marijuana is legalized, it would make Florida the first southern state allow it. Currently, only Colorado and Washington allow recreational use of marijuana. 

A Quinnipiac University poll shows that 88% of Florida voters said they approve of marijuana for medical use, with only 10% opposing legalization. Moreover, those who responded to the poll said that they would support laws that would allow people to keep small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. Some 53% were in favor, while only 42% were opposed. 

Among younger voters, legalized recreational marijuana was even more popular. Those under 29 years of age supported legalized pot 72-24%. 

The demographic group most strongly opposed to recreational marijuana legalization were registered Republicans, although a third of them were still in favor. 

Shortly before adjourning the year's legislative session, Florida legislators passed a bill to exempt a limited group of very sick people from criminal penalty for using marijuana that is low in THC and high in CBD. Gov. Rick Scott has indicated that he’ll sign the bill. 

The bill allows for cancer patients and those that suffer from severe chronic seizures or muscle spasms to use marijuana that contains contains 0.8% THC or lower and 10% CBD or higher. Patients can administer the medicine via pills, oils, or vaporization. Smoking marijuana will be prohibited. 

Medical marijuana advocates maintain that chemotherapy patients must smoke the product because the nausea associated with chemotherapy makes injesting the drug in edible, oil, or pill forms risky. They also maintain that vaporizing apparatus may be too expensive for low-income chemotherapy patients.  

Advocates are also saying that this bill, if passed, doesn't qualify Florida as a "medical marijuana state." However, the voters of Florida will have the opportunity to enact a more comprehensive medical marijuana on a referendum amendment this November. The possible success of this amendment could inspire a referendum for recreational marijuana at a later time. 

Minnesota is also on the verge of legalizing medical marijuana while prohibiting the smoking of cannabis. 

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.


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