I have never been to Florida, but if there’s one thing that I know about the state, it’s that a lot of people go there to retire. Anyone who has looked at the demographics of the state will attest that there are a lot of senior citizens. Senior citizens use a lot of prescription drugs. To quote one of Florida’s most infamous senior citizens, Robert Platshorn, “I’m almost 70 and I have to take 12 medications a day. 6 of them to deal with my ailments, and 6 more to deal with the side effects of the other 6 medications.”
Mr. Platshorn is not alone. He is one of countless citizens of the South, of all ages, that would benefit greatly from a medical marijuana program. Mr. Platshorn will be the first to tell you that medical marijuana might not replace everything that he is taking to alleviate his ailments, but it definitely will help a lot, so why shouldn’t he have the option? Marijuana is safer and cheaper than most (if not all) prescription drugs, which is an undeniable fact that has been recognized by 16 (almost 17!) states.
But unlike the West, Midwest, and Northeastern parts of America, the South has yet to get a medical marijuana state. For clarification purposes, I feel the need to define what I mean by ‘the South.’ The US Census Bureau defines the South as 16 states, including Washington D.C., which I feel is inaccurate. People can feel free to disagree with me and include their opinion in the comments below, but I feel that the South is eleven states.
I consider South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida to be the South. Of these eleven states, only three have an initiative process. This is the single biggest reason that the South is still waiting for medical marijuana. If you look at the states that already have medical marijuana, a majority of them came as a result of an initiative. Most politicians are cowards that are willing to let people suffer in order to protect what they feel are necessary votes, which often requires citizens taking matters into their own hands.
Initiatives are good for democracy, whether they are related to medical marijuana or not. I’m obviously not saying that all initiatives are good, or that you should blinding vote for them, but they are a necessary tool to combat a corrupt political system that puts the power into the hands of the few. Over half of the states in the US have some form of initiative process. Less than 30% of states in the South have an initiative process, and only one state (Arkansas) has a statutory initiative process.
The difference between a statutory initiative and a constitutional initiative is significant, in that the former requires far less signatures than the latter. If a state can get a constitutional amendment, that’s definitely better because it’s ingrained in the state’s constitution, but it requires a lot more resources. For a region of the United States that has yet to get any medical marijuana programs, it would be nice to have a lower hurtle in addition to the higher one.
South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina do not have an initiative process. That means that those states have to rely on politicians to change the system, which if you read my comment above, you know how much faith I have in politicians. That’s not to say that activists shouldn’t lobby their legislators for medical marijuana, because they should. But they should also lobby their legislators to create initiative processes in their state so that they don’t have to go to the state capital to compete with high powered lobbyists for attention!
Below is an overview of each state that has an initiative process, and therefore in my opinion, the best chance of getting medical marijuana to the South. If I left one out, and you feel strongly about it being included, send me an e-mail, and we’ll chat and see about updating the article. Like I always say, I’d rather be wrong and facilitate conversation than be right and have the conversation go nowhere:
Mississippi is a rare Southern state in that it has a compassionate politician working for medical marijuana reform, and it also has decriminalized marijuana to an extent. Oh, and there’s that one federal garden at Ole Miss…According to the Marijuana Policy Project’s website, “For the fourth straight year, Sen. Deborah Dawkins (D-Pass Christian), a compassionate legislator, has introduced medical marijuana legislation. S.B. 2252 would authorize the doctor-recommended medical use of marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions and reschedule marijuana to Schedule II.”
Unfortunately, Sen. Dawkins is surrounded by politicians that lack compassion, and S.B. 2252 is not likely to pass this year. Maybe the fifth times a charm? What I would recommend medical marijuana supporters in Mississippi do is shoot for 2014 with a solid initiative. You already know that you have an asset at the capital in Sen. Deborah Dawkins; you should join forces. If Mississippi can show that it has organization on the ground, some in state fundraising, and good people leading the way inside the state, help will no doubt come from outside of the state eventually. Mississippi is an ‘indirect’ initiative state, meaning the initiative is referred to the legislature first, and if it is voted down, then it goes to the ballot. This can be a two edged sword, but with Dawkins already in the halls of the capital, it could bode very well for Mississippi.
Mississippi has a constitutional initiative process. According to the Mississippi Election Division’s website, “According to State law, for an initiative measure to be placed on this year’s ballot, a minimum of 89,285 certified signatures must be gathered with at least 17,857 certified signatures from each of the five congressional districts as they existed in the year 2000. Signatures must be certified by county circuit clerks. A completed petition is filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, along with a $500 filing fee. Not only must an initiative receive a majority of the total votes cast for that particular initiative, it must also receive more than 40% of the total votes cast in that election.” Get active!
Florida, in my opinion, has the best chance at getting medical marijuana approved. Florida only has a constitutional initiative process, which will require more signatures. But Florida has a secret weapon, that NO other state in the nation has. That secret weapon is Robert ‘The Tuna’ Platshorn and his ‘Silver Tour.’ I have had the privilege to meet Robert Platshorn face-to-face on multiple occasions now. When I first met him it was when his book was first coming out and he was talking to me via e-mail. I have seen first hand how his vision has developed, and so I know what the future holds for him and medical marijuana reform in Florida.
People United for Medical Marijuana is currently gathering signatures that would make medical marijuana a reality in Florida. When you combine the high need for alternative medicine in Florida with a solid political machine it’s only a matter of time before an initiative is approved on the Florida ballot. It’s my opinion that Florida has one of the best chances of bringing medical marijuana to the South. That’s not to discourage other states in the South from trying, because I hope they know that I will back them up with everything that I have. But looking at successful initiatives in the past, Florida seems to be the closest to ‘fitting the mold’ of other states that have approved mmj initiatives.
According to the Florida Elections Division’s website, “For the 2010 and 2012 General Election Ballot, 676,811 signatures are required. In order to comply with sections 15.21 and 16.061, Florida Statutes, you will need to collect and have verified at 67,683 signatures obtained from voters residing in at least 7 Congressional Districts in Florida.”
As I stated above, Arkansas has a solid initiative process. I just got off the phone with their Elections Division, who pointed me to their website which is full of useful information. According to their website, “the signature requirements for statewide initiative measures are as follows: For a Constitutional Amendment, the required number of signatures is 78,133 or ten percent (10%) of the total number of votes cast for the office of Governor in 2010. For an Initiated Act, the required number of signatures is 62,507, or eight percent (8%) of the total number of votes cast for the office of Governor in 2010.”
Arkansas has hardworking people on the ground gathering signatures right now to try to meet the July 6, 2012 deadline. Arkansans for Compassionate Care is collecting signatures for an Initiated Act called The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act. Along with Florida, I think that Arkansas has one of the best chances of getting medical marijuana approved at the ballot box. Especially considering that Arkansas doesn’t have the zone requirements that Florida does. This is your chance Arkansas! Below is information about signature gathering opportunities to help bring medical marijuana to Arkansas from an e-mail that I received from the campaign:
In the next two months there are dozens of community events, and these are excellent places to get lots of signatures. Check out our events calendar for opportunities to earn money and help sick & dying Arkansans, and don’t forget to pick up a t-shirt or bumper sticker in our online store if you haven’t yet.
Thanks again for helping make history in Arkansas!
AR COMPASSION FIELD DIRECTORS
Arkansas – Statewide
Gary Fults- 501-416-1274
Gene Remley- 501-258-2806
Melissa Fults: 501-416-0148
Ryan Denham: 479-966-7803
Nazar Drani: 479-459-8444
Berkley Greene: 808-781-9542
Rob Marsden: 479-883-2114
Gregg Cowles: 870-819-2653
Emma Yingling: 479-283-6578
Richard Morton: 870-291-3536
Richard Venaas: 714-395-6463
Places where you can grab extra petitions if you’ve already been setup and need more. Tell an employee at the counter that you need to pickup petitions. Please take only what you need at that time.
Eddies Headies – 416 West 7th Street
No. Little Rock
Neighborhood Wine & Spirits – 4526 Camp Robinson Road, No. Little Rock
Century Butterfly – 941 West Mount Comfort Road
Sydneys Emporium – 647 West Dickson Street
BP Gas station/ Bus Depot by McDonalds – 4601 West Walnut Street
Glimmer Glassworks & Gallery – 2611 East Nettleton Suite A