Is a Medical Marijuana Approval in Florida's Future?

By Markets Fool.com


Image source: Getty Images.

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What's being voted on

The big day is here: Residents of nine states are headed to the polls to decide the fate of marijuana provisions. One of the most closely watched of these nine decisions should be Florida Amendment 2, which will determine if medical marijuana is in Florida's future.

Florida Amendment 2, which is officially known as the "Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions," could allow Florida to become the 26th state to legalize medical marijuana. Unlike the other states deciding cannabis's fate, Florida's proposal requires an amendment to the state's constitution. Therefore, it will require a 60% "yes" vote in order to pass.

It's also worth noting that this is the second go-around for Floridians voting on medical marijuana, with a similar measure failing to garner enough support in 2014 (58% "yes" votes). Florida Amendment 2 offers a more specific list of the qualifying ailments compared to the previous medical-marijuana amendment voted on in 2014, and parental consent requirements are more clearly defined this time around.

Regulators have determined that the sales tax applied to medical marijuana would increase local and state revenue, but no rough dollar impact is listed.

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What the polling suggests

If the most recent polling data is any indication of what might happen in Florida, medical marijuana looks well on its way to being legalized. A late October poll from The Polling Institute Saint Leo University found that 71% favored the state's medical marijuana amendment compared to only 22% who opposed it. Even with the margin of error and undecided voters factored in, this would lead to the amendment passing.

In fact, since 2015, there have been close to a dozen polls conducted on Floridians' opinions of medical cannabis. In every instance, the surveys have found at least 60% support.

According to an NBC News poll from 2015, 84% of people nationally favor the legalization of medical cannabis.


Image source: Pixabay.

What's at stake

A victory in Florida would be important for two key reasons. First, seniors traditionally dislike pot, and Florida has one of the highest concentrations of seniors within the United States. If medical marijuana can gain approval here, it can presumably gain approval in just about any state.

Secondly, an approval in Florida would tip the scales to more states having legalized pot for medical purposes than those that have kept it illegal. That's a psychological milestone that could push Congress to eventually reconsider marijuana's scheduling.

Of course, even if medical marijuana becomes legal in Florida, it does little to help investors. Despite marijuana's enormous growth potential -- Cowen & Co. has estimated that the legal pot market could hit $50 billion by 2026 from $6 billion today -- the fact that the federal government has kept its stance firm on the drug as schedule 1 means there are inherent disadvantages that'll likely keep investors from partaking in this growth. Plus, recreational marijuana is by far the larger growth opportunity for businesses.

Though this could be a game-changing day for certain Floridians, it's probably a non-event for investors.

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Sean Williamshas no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen nameTMFUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle@TMFUltraLong.

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