Push on again to get medical-marijuana question on the ballot in 2016

Medical marijuana failed by a hair in 2014.
Medical marijuana failed by a hair in 2014.

The Key West City Commission Tuesday night finalized a local law that allows police to write citations for people possessing small amounts of marijuana rather than arrest them on a misdemeanor charge.

Statewide, there is a larger pot fight.

A 2014 statewide referendum to allow pot use for certain medical conditions under a doctor's care failed by just 2 percent. Looking toward the November 2016 ballot, supporters are confident they can get over the required 60 percent threshold.

The Orlando-based People United for Medical Marijuana is again leading the charge. As of Friday, according to the state Division of Elections, the group had 80,070 valid petition signatures, enough for Attorney General Pam Bondi to send the proposed ballot language to the Florida Supreme Court for review. She has 30 days to do so from when she receives the ballot language.

The title: "Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions." The text:

"Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients' medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana."

As of Friday, People United needed another 683,149 signatures to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.

"We've got volunteers working out in the Keys whenever they can," People United Campaign Manager Ben Pollara said. "We're focused on the Keys just as much as any other population center."

According to former Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward of Islamorada, who led the Keys effort in the 2014 medical marijuana campaign, People United had a booth for signatures during Key West Pride in June.

"I'm positive that's we're going to have enough signatures being that it's a presidential election," Ward said.

Pollara said there will be a presence at more Keys events, such as Fantasy Fest in October. People United recently hired a Keys point person, he said.

Keys governments have their own timeline when it comes to marijuana, although it involves its recreational use.

In Key West, the law finalized Tuesday night gives police the discretion to issue a citation, resulting in a $100 fine, for possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana.

Monroe County is working on a similar ordinance to make marijuana a civil citation. County Attorney Bob Shillinger said Tuesday that his office is still in the process of drafting an ordinance for County Commission approval.