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Politics

10 Reasons Amendment 2 Went Down in a Puff of Smoke

November 4, 2014 - 6:00pm

Amendment 2, the ill-fated attempt to legalize medical marijuana, was soundly defeated on Tuesday.So why did Amendment 2 lose, especially when it started out at 88 percent voter support?

There are 10 reasons:

1. John Morgan.

2. John Morgan.

3. John Morgan, the rich and well-known trial attorney was the face of the campaign. That was a monumental mistake from the get-go.

His face became the symbol of the campaign, and trial lawyers arent the most popular folks in our society. He made it easy for the opposition to paint this in such a way as to minimize Johns compassion argument.

He also frequently went over-the-top in his campaigning for the amendment's passage, including the infamous viral YouTube video of John, with a drink in his hand, exhorting young voters to get out and vote by using excessively profane language. By talking in the video that he may even take a toke once he gets out of the country, it showed many that this was not about compassion but about legalization of marijuana.

In addition, the amendment campaign was perceived by many cynical voters as really an effort to get Charlie Crist, who works for John Morgan, elected once again as governor. During the final week of the campaign, an Amendment 2 supporter actually went on social media and claimed that amendment staff was being redirected to the Crist campaign. Ouch!

The idea of a Pot Bus Tour, which according to United for Cares own press releases, was visiting college campuses around the state also indicated that this wasnt about debilitating illnesses, but about securing the support of young voters, few of whom have a debilitating illness. Again, the perception wasnt about compassion, it was simply about politics which undercuts the compassion slant.

4. The opponents were the first to get on television. Accordingly they were able to paint the picture on a blank canvas of what the amendment was really about from their perspective.

Whenever an amendment campaign gets to tell the voters, with little opposition on the tube from the proponents, what they believe will happen if the amendment passes, it can have devastating results.

And the opponents continuously hit on the five loopholes that they identified and importantly they were able to sustain those attacks over the last weeks of the campaign.

5. The amendment language was poorly worded.

Proponents argued that the Supreme Court approved the amendment language. But actually all the court does is ensure that the language is not misleading and that it doesnt violate the One Subject Rule.

That doesnt mean that the Supremes approve the amendment, just that it has the right to go to the voters for their final decision.

The language was not clear on the one key issue that the proponents needed to nail down from the beginning: debilitating illnesses. While the amendment listed eight specific illnesses, it also added the phrase other medical conditions which a doctor might recommend.

That vagueness allowed the opposition to allege, convincingly so, that it would essentially lead to legalization of marijuana through the proliferation of Pot Shops and a whole new regime of pot shop docs, similar to pill mill docs, which were the scourge of South Florida.

6. Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate poured over $5.5 million into the contest.

Interestingly, the proponents consistently said they couldnt understand why he was so invested in this issue.

Simple, it was personal. Mr. Adelson lost a son to drug addiction and so he knew the devastating impact of drug abuse and he was motivated by ambassador Mel Sembler who led the fundraising effort to contribute and to keep on contributing.

And as George Soros poured more money in, Mr. Adelson matched it and then exceeded it.

7. The combination of grassroots and grasstops across the state, in all 67 counties, made a major difference.

While Keep Florida Drug Free led the high-power attack, the Florida Sheriffs Association focused on the grassroots campaign. Bi-weekly calls and consistent messaging help create a significant coalition of local anti-drug organizations.

But dont discount the Florida Medical Association, former Gov. Jeb Bush, the seven former Supreme Court justices, the business community, and faith-based leaders around the state in talking to their constituency about why this was such a bad idea.

8. Bad polling led to hyperinflated expectations by the proponents.

The initial polling on this issue lulled the proponents into thinking that this issue was a shoo-in.

Yet, that initial Quinnipiac University poll was misleading because they didnt ask the right question.

They asked a generic question instead of what voters would see on the ballot. As a consequence, that initial poll became the benchmark and it could only go in one direction down.

When various polls started asking the correct question, the poll results were consistently showing declining approval. In the last month of the campaign, the polls all showed favorability in the low 50 percentile except for the proponents' own poll which was a clear outlier.

The most accurate polling, by the way, was conducted by Marian Johnson and the Florida Chamber of Commerce who has been polling on this issue for about a year. And her poll never showed it reaching 60 percent.

9. The fact that this was an attempt to amend our state Constitution rather than push for a legislative solution worked on behalf of the opposition.

No other state in the country had med weed in their Constitution they were all in statutes which can easily be changed by their respective legislatures. Constitutions can only be amended with another amendment and that can only happen in an election year.

10. Personal caregiver was the Achilles heel of the amendment.

It was the one part of the amendment that caused the most confusion and the opposition pounced on it.

The idea that caregivers would be limited to giving med weed to just five patients was farcical from the beginning. It would be the abusive, greedy caregivers that could give pot to children, teens or anyone they wanted to.

Amendment battles are always expensive and theyre wars of attrition. In this battle, Florida has now become the first state in the nation to reject medical marijuana.

How this campaign was organized and conducted will become a model for how other states that have the will to fight this insidious campaign to legalize weed can win.


Barney Bishop III, one of the most familiar faces within the state business community, is CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting LLC in Tallahassee.

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