The amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Florida was defeated Tuesday, but its proponents aren't yet throwing in the towel.
"The amendment still got 500,000 more votes than our elected governor, so the people have spoken," said Ben Pollara, spokesman for the United for Care campaign which was in favor of the amendment.
Amendment 2 garnered 3,357,537 votes of approval, or 57.6 percent, but needed 60 percent in order to pass as a Constitutional amendment. Re-elected Gov. Rick Scott received 2,859,199 votes.
Lawyer John Morgan, the leading proponent of the amendment, counted the vote as a victory for medical-marijuana legalization. He said he would take the fight to Tallahassee next, and, should that fail, put the issue on the 2016 ballot.
"The governor and the leadership of the House and Senate must listen to the people who gave them their jobs. They must act on this issue," Morgan wrote in a release. "They must pass a medical marijuana law in the 2015 session that serves the hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians who are desperate for one. If they don't -- we'll be back on the ballot in 2016. And the will of the people will not be denied a second time."
Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said he would be glad to see discussions about medical marijuana in the Florida Legislature, and that he believes that would be the proper forum for possible legalization. He said sheriffs of Florida would be happy to weigh in on the debate.
"There are not a whole lot of changes that can happen once a Constitutional amendment is passed," Steube said. "In the Legislature, we can have more research into a non-smokeable form and have stricter guidelines with more oversight."
Steube said while it was important that 57 percent of Floridians thought medical marijuana should be legalized, the issue needed more research both at the state and federal levels.
The first step, he said, would be for the Food and Drug Administration to take marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II controlled substance. That way legal and controlled research could be done into marijuana's potential medical benefits.
Cathy Jordan, a Parrish resident who uses cannabis to treat her ALS and who is the president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, said she's hopeful that state legislators will craft a bill to legalize medical marijuana. She and her husband, Bob Jordan, have been working for years to legalize medical marijuana.
"We've been screaming, 'Someone pay attention to this issue!' And now, it's on the forefront," Bob Jordan said. "I think we'll get more respect this time."
Bob Jordan said getting 60 percent of the vote would be a tall order for anything, but the amendment failing was by no means a loss.
"It's hard to get 60 percent of people to agree on what time of the day it is," Bob Jordan said. "In any other situation, this would've been a landslide."
Kate Irby, online reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7055. Follow her on Twitter @kateirby.