And another two bite the dust.
A proposal to legalize medical cannabis in West Virginia stalled in the House this week, while a similar measure in Florida appears dead in the water as well.
Both bills faced an uphill battle, so the developments aren’t exactly surprising.
In West Virginia, the state House prevented a floor vote on an MMJ bill (HB 2961) introduced by Democratic Delegate Mike Manypenny, despite little opposition from the public. In fact, 20 people spoke in favor of it in front of a committee chairman, while no one spoke against the measure.
Support runs high among the general population, with a recent poll finding 53 percent of voters back the legalization of cannabis for medical use.
Resistance remains strong in the halls of power, however. This marks the third consecutive session that lawmakers have batted down an MMJ measure sponsored by Manypenny. The difference this time around: Manypenny persuaded a handful of his fellow lawmakers – including Republicans – to sign on as co-sponsors. That bodes well for future efforts, but it could be years before the Legislature has a serious discussion about medical cannabis.
In Florida, the main sponsor of a bill to legalize medical marijuana (HB 1139) said this week that the chances it will pass are “slim to none” after lawmakers failed to debate the issue. It’s doubtful that MMJ will make much progress in the Legislature in the years to come, as lawmakers don’t even seem interested in talking about the issue, let alone voting in favor of medical cannabis legalization.
That doesn’t mean MMJ is completely off the table. Quite the opposite: There’s a real chance Florida could legalize medical marijuana next year – though not through the Legislature. Cannabis advocates are trying to get a constitutional amendment legalizing MMJ on the 2014 ballot.
Florida laws make it difficult to get such citizen-led initiatives in front of voters: Last year, all 11 ballot measures calling for changes to the state’s Constitution came from lawmakers, not citizens. Marijuana advocates will have to collect 700,000 valid signatures just to qualify the measure for the ballot, which could cost $10 million by some estimates.
But several high-profile locals – including influential attorney and top Democratic fundraiser John Morgan – have thrown their weight behind medical cannabis in recent weeks, vowing to pump their own time and money into the effort. Getting the measure in from of voters could seal the deal, as a recent poll found that roughly 70% of locals support the legalization of medical cannabis.
West Virginia and Florida join a growing list of states that have shot down medical marijuana proposals this year. Legislators have introduced MMJ measures in more than a dozen states since the start of the current legislative session, but only a handful are actually expected to pass such laws this year.