By Mark Caputo
Poll after poll has shown that about 60 percent or more of Americans and Floridians support medical marijuana, and Tuesday night's election results in Miami Beach showed it to be true.
More than 64 percent of Miami Beach residents approved a straw ballot question calling for medical marijuana. Now it's up to the city commission and the new mayor to decide how bound they will be to the nonbinding referendum, which asks them to urge the federal and state governments to decriminalize pot for medical reasons.
In raw vote terms, mayoral frontrunner Philip Levine is less popular than the medical pot issue. He received 5,639 votes last night; medical marijuana garnered 6,683. One reason for that: Levine faced four other opponents, the medical-marijuana issue was a straight up-or-down vote.
Levine might be headed to a runoff (he won just under the needed 50.5 percent to win outright), so he could wind up getting more votes in the end. Or he could lose outright to opponent and current Commissioner Michael Gongora (who won 36.4 percent of the vote).
Medical marijuana was also the least-popular of the six ballot questions in Miami Beach, where voters by wide margins approved measures concerning anti-discrimination, education, human relations, condominiums and their convention center.
As for the future of medical marijuana in Florida, the real battleground is the state Supreme Court, which is reviewing the ballot summary of a proposed initiative that would legalize pot with a doctor's recommendation. Attorney General Pam Bondi has asked the court to reject the initiative, saying the ballot summary is misleading.
Even if the measure gets past the justices, People United for Medical Marijuana face another hurdle: It needs to gather 683,149 verified voter signatures by February. The group says it has gathered 200,000 so far, of which more than 110,000 have been verified.
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