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Conservation Amendment Hits 900,000 Signatures; Medical Marijuana Trails In Numbers

LaTara Graham gathers amendment petitions in downtown Jacksonville

In downtown Jacksonville, across the street from City Hall, LaTara Graham solicits signatures from passers-by.

She’s a paid petition gatherer with two proposals in hand: One advocating the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use, and the other calling on the state to set aside money each year for land and water conservation:

“I think it’s necessary to inform individuals about what’s going on in our state, and everyone being proactive, being a listener, saying yes to the cause, researching on their own, and following all the way through," Graham said. "Once they get the information, knowledge is power.” 

Graham, who’s unemployed, says she got involved with the drives because she needed the money and because she believes in the cause. The petitions are circulating across the state, with dozens of workers like Graham urging pedestrians, store shoppers and passers-by to sign them.  Ron Mitchell signed off on both petitions in Tallahassee.

“The legalization of marijuana is a great way to help people with big problems," he said. "And the cleaning of water—who doesn’t need clean water? Everyone needs clean water—to bathe with, to drink, everything.”  

Mitchell, who is 24 and from South Florida says he’s experienced numerous water quality and quantity problems at his South Florida home. The conservation proposal has garnered more than 900,000 signatures, nearly half of which have already been verified, according to the Florida Department of State’s website, and the Trust For Public Land, the group behind the effort, say it's confident the amendment will make it on to the 2014 ballot when all the counting is done.

“We’re just so excited and humbled by the outpouring we’ve seen from Florida voters across the state who recognize the importance of protecting our water quality and our wildlife habitat and our land," said Will Abberger, the amendment campaign director. "Not only because it’s important for Florida’s environment, but also because I think people realize what an important component that is to our economy.” 

But with time running out, at least one of the amendments could be in trouble.

The outlook is not as certain for the medical marijuana initiative. It’s under review by the Florida Supreme Court after Attorney General Pam Bondi opposed it. According to the Department of State’s website, it’s only garnered about a fifth of signatures it would need, and the deadline to turn over the petitions is February first. But the amendment is bankrolled by the deep pockets of trial lawyer John Morgan and polls suggest more than three-quarters of Floridians support it.

For more news updates, follow Lynn Hatter on twitter @HatterLynn.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.