FLORIDA — Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment Tuesday to legalize medical marijuana, broadening access to pot beyond the limited therapeutic uses approved by the legislature two years ago.
The amendment passed with 71 percent of voters approving of the measure.
Currently, the law allows non-smoked, low-THC pot for patients with cancer or ailments that cause chronic seizures or severe spasms. The ballot measure formally legalizes medical marijuana, and broadens access for diseases with symptoms other than seizures or spasms.
Specifically it allows prescriptions for 10 illnesses: cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis. It also allows doctors to prescribe pot for any other similar kind of ailment.
Attorney John Morgan of Orlando has been pushing for the passing of medical marijuana since 2014.
"Nearly four years. Two elections. Over 2 million petitions from Florida voters. $8 million of my money. 18,238 donations from 8,287 of supporters, like you. Over $10 million spent against us, fighting compassion," Morgan said in a statement.
Marie Ivey, 73, a music publisher from Coral Springs, Florida, said she decided to vote for the measure after talking to her adult daughter, who has cancer and undergone four operations.
"She is in pretty bad shape now," Ivey said, adding that she thinks using marijuana would be "OK, if it helps."
A similar ballot measure narrowly failed in 2014, when opponents expressed concerns that the state would be overrun with pot shops and that children wouldn't be adequately protected from potential bad effects of the drug.
Proponents said loopholes were closed this time, including requiring parental written consent for underage patients.
The Department of Health will regulate how medical marijuana can be distributed along with mandating identification cards for caregivers and patients. Many rules and regulations -- from how the marijuana is grown to regulations on how it can be transported for in-home delivery -- already have been passed by the legislature under laws for limited use of marijuana. Those regulations also will apply to the constitutional amendment.
Florida becomes the 26th state along with the District of Columbia to legalize the marijuana plant for medical use. Florida is one of 16 states where only part of the marijuana plant is used.