The paradox of Amendment 2 and a call to action for the future

The paradox of Amendment 2 and a call to action for the future

Written by Victoria Jara, New College of Florida SSDP alumni and YESon2 volunteer

Driving around the city of Sarasota on election day, giving students rides to voting precincts, pulling up voter information for people in a frenzy, and meeting up with campaign staff were but some of the many aspects my colleagues and I contributed to on election day. We felt hopeful, certain even, that Amendment 2 would pass, although we knew if it passed it would be marginally.

The United for Care Campaign coupled with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) worked on educating Floridians about the benefits that medical marijuana serves for those people suffering from severe illnesses. More stress could not be emphasized for these suffering patients. College students were incentivized to go out and vote for a cause that most students can wrap their heads around: decriminalizing the medical use of marijuana, a step that would bring us closer to full legalization.

Unfortunately, the system did not cater to the majority in this case.

On November 7, 2006, legislation in Florida passed the Florida Supermajority Requirement Amendment, also known as Amendment 3, that modified Article XI, Section 5 of the Florida Constitution to increase the number of votes required to approve a constitutional amendment from 50%+1 to 60%.

Amendment 2 supporters knew that this would prove to be an obstacle in the 2014 election. On the ground, I tried to remind people whom I talked to about this important component in the upcoming election.

New College of Florida SSDPers Victoria Jara and Eilis Ryan

New College of Florida SSDPers Victoria Jara and Eilis Ryan

In the weeks of campaigning, support was very noticeable. People responding to our signs and campaigns with thumbs up, people commenting with “I already voted and I support the amendment” and “Keep fighting the good fight”, kept me hopeful for the initiative. It was noticeable on the ground that more people were in support than in opposition, although needless to say, the opposition was present. This reality reflected election results quite well.

At 10:30 p.m. EST on election day, I received news that Amendment 2 did not pass, despite receiving a 58% approval rate. The opposition won with a 42% minority vote.

The absurdity of the Supermajority Amendment could not be more visible than at that moment.

In the case of Amendment 2 in this most recent election, the obstacle posed by the Supermajority Requirement Amendment worked in the favor of those who opposed legalizing medical marijuana. The irony here lies in the unequal standards held between the percentage needed to pass Amendment 3 in 2006, passing with a 57.78% majority, and the 60% majority Amendment 3 called for as a requirement for future constitutional amendments. It appears that equal standards are not upheld when a conflict of interest exists.

Despite the disappointing and upsetting election results for Florida, the statistics did show an impressive desire for change by the majority of Floridians. With a 58% majority support for medical marijuana on a midterm election year, change is just a few years away from happening here in Florida. John Morgan has already agreed to continue with the medical marijuana campaign one more time in hopes that one more attempt is what Florida needs.

So Florida SSDPers, what are you going to do to assure the majority’s voice gets heard in 2016, or even in 2015? Let’s show Florida what we can do when we work together to fight for what we know is right.