The Florida Supreme Court has narrowly approved language for a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana for medical use, guaranteeing the measure a spot on the state’s November ballot.
Advocates have already collected well over the 683,000 signatures
necessary to qualify the measure for the fall ballot. County officials
have already validated a sufficient number of signatures. The court
challenge was all that stood in their way.
In an 84-page opinion, the court ruled
by a 4-3 margin that the proposal’s ballot summary was sufficiently
clear. Republicans, led by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R), had
challenged the language as misleading.
Justices debated whether the language made clear that medical
marijuana could only be used to treat “debilitating” diseases, like
cancer, AIDS and Parkinson’s. The three justices who dissented said the
ballot summary was “seriously deceptive” and would do voters “a severe
“Today’s ruling leaves the issue of medical marijuana in the hands of
Florida’s voters. I encourage every Floridian to read the full
amendment in order to understand the impact it could have on
Floridians,” Bondi said in a statement after the court’s ruling.
The proposed amendment will share the ballot with a heated race
between Gov. Rick Scott (R) and his predecessor, former Gov. Charlie
Crist, who last won office as a Republican but is now a Democrat.
Crist, once dubbed “Chain Gang Charlie” for his tough-on-crime
stands, says he supports legalizing marijuana for medical uses; Scott
opposes the bill. Crist is heavily favored over former state Sen. Nan
Rich in the Democratic primary.
Some Republicans worry the proposed amendment will drive turnout
among younger voters, who disproportionately vote Democratic. Several
Republicans recently voiced fears that the amendment was little more
than a Trojan horse for the Crist campaign.
Opposition to the medical marijuana push is likely to come from Save
Our Society from Drugs, a group run in part by Betty Sembler. Sembler’s
husband, Mel, is a former ambassador and major Republican donor. The
group’s executive director told the Tampa Tribune that the loopholes in the proposed amendment would create “de-facto marijuana legalization.”
In an interview
earlier this month, Ben Pollara, who is running the pro-amendment
campaign, said his group would aim to raise and spend at least $10
If the amendment passes, Florida would join 18 other states and the
District of Columbia in allowing medical patients to use marijuana. Two
states, Washington and Colorado, allow legal purchases for non-medical
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in November showed a huge
majority of Florida voters, 82 percent, backed allowing adults to use
marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes the drug. Just
16 percent of voters said they opposed marijuana for medical use.
The same poll showed a slim plurality — 48 percent — supported
allowing adults to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Forty-six percent said they opposed recreational marijuana use.