NAPLES, Fla.- It's the latest issue lighting up the Legislature: whether or not voters should decide on the legalization of medical marijuana. Similar bills have already passed in 15 states, but voters in Southwest Florida are divided on whether it should appear as a choice on 2012 ballots.
The bill calls on the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes only, offering those suffering from debilitating disease an alternative to synthetic drugs.
"We have a lot people suffering here in the State of Florida. I don't think we need to be telling them that prescription narcotics are the way to go, when we have other, more natural avenues for them," Rep. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth said Thursday.
If lawmakers pass the legislation, the issue would then be in the hands of voters. 60% of Floridians would have to approve it on 2012 ballots in order for it to become law. But today, voters were divided on the issue.
"If it's for medical purposes, I think they should do it," Addiel Pintules said Thursday.
"I think it goes beyond the medical. Once it's passed for medical reasons, people have access to it too easily," Clem Hinterstocker said.
The bill is the first of it's kind in Florida, but some question why it was filed at all.
"A waste of time! I think the legislators were elected, they should step up to the plate and do the right thing," Burt Green said Thursday.
A recent poll of 800 voters found 57% of Floridians are in support of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. It's creation could generate anywhere between $5-12 million dollars in tax revenue annually. Still, some say they aren't sold.
"I think there are plenty of other ways that we could be generating money and bringing it to the State of Florida," Ashley Burgoyne said.
The bill hasn't actually made it the floor of the Legislature yet. If lawmakers pass it, the option will appear on 2012 ballots.