A proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana will appear along with the governor's race on the November ballot in the state of Florida. Regardless of their candidate preferences, Florida voters will be able to decide whether medical marijuana will become a reality in the Sunshine State.

A November Quinnipiac University poll found that 82 percent of Floridians support the legalization of medical marijuana, and 16 percent do not. Given this degree of popular support, it would not be unreasonable to predict that the measure will pass –- adding Florida to the list of 20 states (and the District of Columbia) that permit the commercialization of marijuana for medical purposes.

Is this a good thing for Florida?

For many reasons, I believe it is clearly positive. But before we delve into those reasons, a point of clarification is in order: Will the medical-marijuana ballot initiative benefit the chances of Charlie Crist, the likely Democratic-favored candidate, in the gubernatorial race against Rick Scott? Possibly. Young voters, who disproportionately vote liberal, may have greater incentive to turn out to the polls next November.

But regardless of political considerations, anyone concerned with freedom of individual choice should find this measure worthy of support. Medical marijuana can help patients with severe debilitating conditions alleviate unbearable pain. At its core is the idea that government should not be given the power to restrict our liberty to choose how to face an illness — or death.

And so, we return to the main reasons why the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida is a good thing:

Scientific proof that marijuana is medically beneficial for those battling life-threatening, physically distressing, conditions is not scarce. For example, many medications for children with severe epilepsy have terrible side effects that can impair healthy development. Some types of seizures are even resistant to medications. According to the National Institute of Health, one-third of children with epilepsy cannot control their seizures with traditional treatment. And a study conducted in 2003 by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University discovered that marijuana can play an effective role in controlling spontaneous seizures in epileptic patients.

The list goes on.

Can this ballot measure open the door for the legalization of recreational marijuana? Or could Florida become California — where medical marijuana dispensaries seem to appear on every corner, and the line between medical and recreational use becomes faint? There is no logical reason to fear those consequences. If the state has the power and means to enforce drug laws (and Florida is a strong drug-laws enforcer in comparison with other states in the country), then it surely has the capability to regulate the administration of medical marijuana by law-abiding doctors and properly licensed facilities.

Furthermore, an increasing number of individuals abuse a raft of currently legal drugs (such as Oxycontin and Xanax). Should we make those drugs illegal? We surely don't think that responsible patients should be deprived of medication when they need it for valid reasons. Similarly, patients in need of medical marijuana should not be deprived of it. Here's something else important: Some currently legal drugs can kill if used in excess or inappropriately, without medical guidance. No one ever died from a marijuana overdose.

The health benefits of marijuana justify its legalization for medical uses. A basic human right to dignified medical treatment — and the unencumbered freedom to have a say in the nature of that treatment — reinforce that justification.

Julia Maskivker is an assistant professor in the political-science department at Rollins College in Winter Park.