SARASOTA, Fla. -- The majority of Floridians think marijuana should be available for medical use according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. The survey found that voters support the measure by an almost nine to one margin. Floridians have spoken, and if they go out to vote in these numbers during the November election, the marijuana ballot initiative is likely to pass.
"This will help people," says Patty Benson, talking about medical marijuana. She is one of thousands of people who helped to gather signatures to place the medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot.
"I support it because there are so many people and children who will be able to get the marijuana medication to help them survive," she says.
According to the recent Quinnipiac poll, 88 percent of Floridians agree with Benson. The poll was conducted between July 17th and 21st and surveyed over 1,200 registered voters. Support varied with age, with voters between ages 18 and 29 showing the highest level of support at 95 percent. Support dropped somewhat among senior voters, though an impressive 83 percent of voters over age 65 support the amendment, while 14 percent are against it.
The high support has many in the substance abuse community urging caution.
"It’s really important to them as a voter to take the time to read and understand what the legislation truly is asking," says PJ Brooks of First Step of Sarasota. Brooks worries the vagueness of the legislation could lead to the drug getting into the wrong hands. The ballot wording doesn't specify which illnesses can be treated with marijuana.
"Alcohol is legal, we see many DUI's, we see many car crashes, and it stands to reason that it could potentially be issues related to marijuana as well if it is legalized," Brooks says. "I suspect if more individuals have access to it, that we would see an escalation in the number of individuals who have challenges with marijuana."
Those in support of medical marijuana cite the treatment benefits as the basis for their support.
"Medical marijuana is only to be dispensed to the people and the children who need it,” says Benson. “It will give people a chance to live and live in some sort of decency.”
The Quinnipiac poll also surveyed people about the recreational use of medical marijuana. They found 55 percent of adults now approve of the legal possession of small amounts of the drug. 41 percent of respondents were against the full legalization of marijuana for recreational use.