Student group rallies support for medical marijuana

 Students for Sensible Drug Policy tabled outside Cooper Hall on Tuesday in support of legalizing medical marijuana. 

In light of the November election, representatives from the international nonprofit Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), together with its USF chapter, tabled outside Cooper Hall on Tuesday in support of Florida’s medical marijuana amendment. 

This was the third week SSDP Florida Campus Coordinator Colin Fitzgibbon has spent reaching out to students in the Cooper Hall breezeway to rally support for Amendment 2, which will be on the ballot Nov. 4. Fitzgibbon and a representative from the USF chapter also signed up students to vote for National Voter Registration Day. 

Fitzgibbon said the state and national chapters of SSDP have spent a lot of time and money in Florida recently because this is the first time such a “progressive drug policy” has been up for a vote in the state. 

“We’re really trying to come at it from a scientific direction because any time you mention marijuana, people think ‘Oh it’s this or it’s that.’ But the reality is that it helps a lot of sick people and we don’t think people should be thrown in jail for trying to use it,” he said. 

The opposition to Amendment 2, spearheaded by Polk County Sherriff Grady Judd and the Florida Sheriffs Association, believes the current draft of the amendment will allow anyone access to marijuana, not just patients in need. 

SSDP is looking specifically to target the student vote, which Fitzgibbon said is going to make a huge impact on the amendment in Florida. Fitzgibbon has also tabled at FSU and UF over the last few months.

“We’re going to need students because we have to have a 60 percent popular vote,” Fitzgibbon said. “It’s going to be easy for the opposition because they only need to get the 40 percent who think marijuana is the devil’s herb or something like that.”

The most recent Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/UF Bob Graham Center poll shows supporters of Amendment 2 are just shy of the 60 percent majority mark with 56.7 percent of respondents saying they will support the Amendment in November.

As it gets closer to the election, SSDP, as well as United for Care, the largest pro-medical marijuana campaign in Florida, will host events at campuses across the state and encouraging students to hold rallies and share their opinions with local news organizations.

Fitzgibbon said the biggest obstacles to securing the student vote for Amendment 2 are political apathy and actually getting students to show up on Election Day.

“We have the loudest voice of any generation; we have the reins on social media and all the power in the world like that, but we also vote the least of any demographic,” he said.

In the coming weeks, SSDP and United for Care will look to host events at USF to rally support and showcase patient testimony.

According to Fitzgibbon, United for Care and SSDP will return to USF on Oct. 2 to host a rally and a discussion on medical marijuana.

“We want to make sure students know the facts about medical marijuana,” Fitzgibbon said. “It’s about compassion, it’s about people getting access to the medicine that they need, it’s not about people just getting high.”