Marijuana legalization Florida 2016: Here's what you need to know about Amendment 2

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Florida voters are poised to make some patients in the state users of medical marijuana. So far, 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana while three states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Besides Florida, Missouri and Arkansas will also have medical marijuana legalization on the ballot in November. 

More than 60% of Floridians must vote to support Florida Amendment 2 to legalize medical marijuana in the state constitution. Polling has found a high percentage of voters favor medical marijuana. 

Florida already allows use of cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound found in marijuana that is favored for pain and anxiety relief without the psychoactive effects of THC. Earlier this year, the state passed legislation allowing people who are terminally ill to use medical cannabis. 

Debate over Florida Amendment 2 centers around the need for medical marijuana and whether the proposal is a gateway to recreational legalization of cannabis.

Here's what you need to know about this year's amendment: 

The amendment would allow doctors to send patients to state-regulated dispensaries to pick up marijuana for a medical condition, like cancer, epilepsy or PTSD.

Florida Attorney General candidate Jim Lewis, who ran on a platform of legalizing marijuana, holds a sign during a campaign rally on October 12, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Florida Attorney General candidate Jim Lewis, who ran on a platform of legalizing marijuana, holds a sign during a campaign rally on October 12, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Joe Raedle/Getty Images

What the amendment does

A doctor recommending a patient take marijuana would not technically be a prescription, as cannabis is still classified as Schedule I — drugs that are considered highly addictive with no medical use — under federal law. Because of that classification, a doctor could lose their license if they prescribe marijuana. 

The amendment could set up thousands of medical dispensaries around Florida. Some dispensaries already exists because of a 2014 Florida law that allows doctors to give patients a low-THC forms of cannabis called "Charlotte's Web."

Source: Seth Perlman/AP
Source: Seth Perlman/AP

The case for the amendment...

Proponents of Florida Amendment 2 say research proves marijuana helps patients who suffer from a wide range of medical diseases and conditions. "Cocaine, morphine and methamphetamine may all be legally administered to patients — so why not marijuana," United for Care, the group backing the amendment, says on its website.

This is not the first time Florida residents have voted on medical marijuana legalization. In 2014, a similar amendment narrowly failed to reach 60% of the vote needed to pass. This year, the amendment more clearly defines what medical conditions will be covered and requires parental consent for use of marijuana by minors. 

...and the case against 

Some Florida doctors have said they do not see a medical value to cannabis. The Florida Medical Association opposes the amendment. Others worry medical marijuana is a pathway to legalization. "As a physician, I don't want medical marijuana to be the lead-in to a legalization of marijuana," a Florida doctor told local television station WBBH.