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Medical marijuana campaign relaunches after Florida House ends lawmaking session


The abrupt conclusion Tuesday to the Florida House's legislative session meant the end of the line for scores of bills that have yet to pass the chamber, including a long-shot proposal to legalize medical marijuana.

Jumping on news that the House had adjourned three days ahead of schedule, medical pot advocates declared the re-launch of their political campaign to get a constitutional amendment on the 2016 Florida ballot.

"Despite courageous leadership from Senators and Representatives in both houses and both parties, Tallahassee has failed us again," United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara said in a statement. "Medical marijuana will be on the ballot in 2016 and the voters will pass what the legislature failed to."

The campaign quickly emailed supporters asking for financial contributions.

"We must, again, get almost 700,000 petitions signed and validated," the email reads. "But this time, we have more months to do it, a better informed populace, and momentum." Signature-gathering had been put on hold -- or at least not widely pursued -- during the annual 60-day session.

Pollara and the campaign's chief financial backer, Orlando trial attorney John Morgan, had pitched the 2015 legislation as the only way for lawmakers to avoid another public vote on the issue in 2016. A 2014 referendum was backed by nearly 58 percent of voters but failed to meet the required 60-percent threshold. The advocates had particularly tried to appeal to Republicans by suggesting a cannabis amendment on a presidential ballot might benefit the Democratic nominee.

Other legislation that died Tuesday had been close to passage. That wasn't the case with medical marijuana, despite last-minute attempts to keep the bills alive.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, Morgan weighed in with his own strongly worded message to supporters.

Here's what his email said, in part:

I was hoping -- like many of you -- that our legislators would wake the hell up, realize that the science is there, the will of the people is there, and that a delay not only hurts patients  -- it's going to hurt them in the next election.

Make no mistake - I will do what i can to alleviate the pain of those suffering -- and make sure those that are responsible for this delay feel pain politically. Voters will know they failed us.

There were exceptions -- and exceptional advocates on our behalf in the Senate and even in the House.  I will likewise make sure they're lauded for their efforts. I hope they will all join in support of the amendment to be.

My commitment is as strong as ever. The demographics favor us. Momentum and science favor us. And we are not starting from the same place.