TALLAHASSEE -- The campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida took it up a notch this weekend with coordinated phone banking and outreach in 13 Florida cities. The objective? Make sure everybody who signed the ballot petition follows through with a vote on election day.
At a shady roadside church in Tallahassee, a handful of volunteers gathered with ice tea, a platter of sandwiches and tablet computers full of the phone numbers of everybody whose signatures helped bring Amendment Two to the November ballot. That's somewhere between 800,000 and a million Floridians.
"Our mission today is to call as many people as we can," said Tallahassee organizer Jay Smith as he prepared for the work of trying to reach the people who were at least willing to let the issue come to a referendum.
Volunteers said most of those who answered the phone Saturday afternoon were advocates for medical marijuana. But a few were no longer sure and many had to be reminded that the amendment was really on the Nov. 4 ballot. Casual voters -- identified by data-crunching pioneered by the first Obama campaign -- were urged to send in for absentee ballots.
Many of the phone volunteers had come to the cause of medicinal pot through their own experiences. Tallahassee writer and Navy veteran Ashley Gibson said cancer is the curse of the women in her family.
"I see the pills. I see them get skinny. We are backwoods, southern Georgia, Florida women and we got a little meat on our bones. And you see them sick and you don't see the feistiness in them. Then you see them smoke just a little marijuana and it calms them down or they feel better or they eat," Gibson said.
Volunteer Phil Castelucci, a former prison guard, was left disabled with spinal injuries and persistent pain after an inmate attack three years ago. Between calls, he said he might prefer marijuana to the side-effect-heavy opiate painkillers that he takes now. But he says he's never tried it because his doctor would find out.
"The state of Florida will not let him continue to prescribe opiates to a person who tests positive for an illegal substance," he said.
Polls show heavy support for medical marijuana in Florida. But approval will require heavy support -- a 60-percent majority of Florida voters.