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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Medical marijuana will be on the Florida ballot in November, which is bad news for Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican leaders who oppose any relaxation of the state’s backward cannabis laws.

They say medical use of weed is the first step toward Colorado-style legalization, and they might be right. They say that although the proposed constitutional amendment names only nine diseases, lots of people who aren’t really sick will find a way to get marijuana from certain doctors.

That’s probably true, too. This, after all, is the state that made pill mills a roadside tourist attraction. Who can doubt that future pot prescriptions will bear the signatures of a Dr. Cheech or a Dr. Chong?

But guess what — voters know that, and most don’t seem worried. They’ve seen what’s happened in California, where no anarchy materialized after medicinal pot was approved.

Nor has the fabric of society disintegrated in the 20 other states and the District of Columbia, where similar laws are on the books.

In Florida, as is true throughout the country, public surveys continue to show landslide support for medical marijuana, and a majority favoring the decriminalization of small amounts for personal use.

This is a thorny problem for conservative Republicans like Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, who are up for re-election. They now have to sally forth and crusade against a popular cause, trying to stir fear and doubts among a constituency that’s heard it all before.

The main force behind the medical marijuana movement is John Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney. Morgan is a major Democratic donor who is close to former governor Charlie Crist, Scott’s likely opponent in November.

One would assume that having medicinal pot on the ballot will draw more Democrats and independents to the polls, boosting Crist’s chances of beating Scott. However, the high polling popularity of the marijuana measure means lots of Republican voters like it, too.

For one thing, pot really does help certain patients with glaucoma, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other serious medical conditions that don’t discriminate between liberals and conservatives.