Florida Attorney General Asks State Supreme Court To Block Marijuana Legalization Initiative From 2024 Ballot
Florida’s attorney general is again asking the state Supreme Court to keep a marijuana legalization initiative off the ballot.
About a week after the Smart & Safe Florida campaign said that they’ve collected enough raw signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) transmitted the measure to the court, with an opinion challenging its constitutionality.
Specifically, Moody is claiming that the initiative violates the state Constitution’s single subject rule, which requires ballot proposals to be narrowly focused on an individual issue. She made the same argument against a 2022 legalization measure, and the Supreme Court subsequently invalidated it.
New material in Re: Adult Personal Use of Marijuana (Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General). See the docket here: https://t.co/ASHoq9EFh7 pic.twitter.com/x0Yvt3AgAj
— FloridaSupremeCourt (@flcourts) May 15, 2023
“In accordance with the provisions of Article IV, section 10, Florida Constitution, I respectfully request this Court’s opinion as to whether the proposed amendment ‘Adult Personal Use of Marijuana’ complies with the single-subject requirement of Article XI, section 3, Florida Constitution, and whether the ballot title and summary of the amendment complies with the substantive and technical requirements in section 101.161(1), Florida Statutes,” the attorney general’s new filing says. “I believe that the proposed amendment fails to meet the requirements of Section 101.161(1), Fla. Stat., and will present additional argument through briefing at the appropriate time.”
The Supreme Court is always required to review ballot petitions after they exceed a certain signature threshold, which the Smart & Safe Florida campaign achieved in January.
Despite Moody’s opinion, activists say that they’ve thoroughly vetted the measure and are confident the court will agree that it complies with constitutional requirements.
“We appreciate General Moody’s transmittal to the Supreme Court but respectfully disagree with her statement that she believes it does not comply,” the campaign said in a statement to Florida Politics, which first reported on Moody’s filing.
“We very much look forward to her analysis but more importantly to both written and oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court and a positive ruling from that court,” they said. “As an aside, it is important to note that the opinion of the Attorney General is not binding and that this matter will be decided after both sides have had their say before the Florida Supreme Court.”
The cannabis company Trulieve, which is financially backing the Smart & Safe Florida campaign and has contributed more than $38 million to date, announced last week that advocates had “gathered sufficient raw signatures for inclusion on the November 2024 ballot.”
The Florida Division of Elections updates the ballot signature counts at the end of each month, so the current total isn’t reflected yet. But the last update showed that the campaign was about 94 percent of the way though, so it makes sense that advocates would’ve closed that gap at this point.
To make the ballot, activists will need to turn in 891,523 valid signatures. So far, the state had verified 786,688 as of the end of April. By the end of February the campaign had crossed the symbolic threshold of 420,000 signatures. That rose to 635,961 valid signatures as of March.
If approved, the measure would change the state Constitution to allow existing medical cannabis companies in the state like Trulieve to begin selling marijuana to all adults over 21. It contains a provision that would allow—but not require—lawmakers to take steps toward the approval of additional businesses. Home cultivation by consumers would not be allowed under the proposal as drafted.
Adults 21 and older would be able to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, only five grams of which could be marijuana concentrate products. The three-page measure also omits equity provisions favored by advocates such as expungements or other relief for people with prior cannabis convictions.
A poll published in March found that 70 percent of Florida voters support legalizing marijuana. Florida voters approved a medical cannabis constitutional amendment in 2016.
Here’s what the Smart & Safe Florida marijuana legalization initiative would accomplish:
Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use. The cap for marijuana concentrates would be five grams.
Medical cannabis dispensaries could “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute marijuana products and marijuana accessories to adults for personal use.”
The legislature would be authorized—but not required—to approve additional entities that are not currently licensed cannabis dispensaries.
The initiative specifies that nothing in the proposal prevents the legislature from “enacting laws that are consistent with this amendment.”
The amendment further clarifies that nothing about the proposal “changes federal law,” which seems to be an effort to avoid past legal challenges about misleading ballot language.
There are no provisions for home cultivation, expungement of prior records or social equity.
The measure would take effect six months following approval by voters.
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Here’s the full text of the ballot title and summary:
“Allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise; allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories. Applies to Florida law; does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law. Establishes possession limits for personal use. Allows consistent legislation. Defines terms. Provides effective date.”
Should the initiative make the 2024 ballot, at least 60 percent of Florida voters would have to approve the measure for it to be enacted.
An earlier poll released in 2021 found that a majority of Florida voters (59 percent) support legalizing cannabis for adult use, so that’s a slim margin that shows that advocates will have their work cut out for them if the measure qualifies.
Meanwhile, activists that aren’t directly involved in the Smart & Safe Florida campaign said last year that they were exploring plans to have voters decide on what they hope will be a complementary measure permitting adults to grow their own cannabis at home.
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