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The politics, paradoxes and polling of pot

@MarcACaputo

Tallahassee’s conservative political establishment is about to embark on a multi-million ad campaign to kill a popular, proposed constitutional amendment for medical marijuana.

Paradoxically, more money and more message could mean more problems for the opponents.

That’s because one of the best ways to motivate older and conservative just-say-no voters is to frame the amendment as a “smokescreen” for outright legalization. But that message (questionable though it is) can motivate younger and more liberal voters.

And those younger voters, typically less likely to show in mid-term elections, are probably more enthused about outright marijuana legalization rather than medical cannabis.

Not only could these less-likely voters show, polling and demographic trends indicate that they’d be less likely to vote for Gov. Rick Scott, the standard bearer of the Tallahassee political establishment.

So conservatives could unwittingly fund their own demise by unwittingly ginning up young voters.

“Medical marijuana will probably drive up turnout among lower-propensity voters by a point or two,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor who has authored numerous peer-reviewed articles on ballot initiatives and voter performance.

“It’s not going to be a lot, but in a close election like this, a little is a lot,” Smith said. “Now who medical marijuana helps politically is much less clear.”

The conventional wisdom, therefore, about Democrat Charlie Crist getting a major boost from medical marijuana could be dead wrong. Crist, Democrats and the campaign led by People United for Medical Marijuana face their own conflicts when it comes to cannabis.

Welcome to the tricky politics, paradoxes and polling of pot.

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