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Florida Supreme Court Will Likely Issue ‘Out-Of-Calendar’ Marijuana Legalization Ballot Opinion On Monday



The Florida Supreme Court has announced that justices will be rendering “out-of-calendar opinions” on Monday, likely including a decision in a case that will decide whether a marijuana legalization initiative will appear on the state ballot this November.

There were strong expectations that the court would release its opinion on Thursday given its routine policy of doing so on that day of the week, but that didn’t happen this week, causing some confusion in light of a constitutionally imposed deadline to decide on the case “no later than April 1.”

But on Thursday evening, the court said it would be rendering opinions on Monday at 4pm ET. The plural “opinions” further indicates that the cannabis question will be answered, as justices face that Monday at midnight deadline for two ballot-related cases, including one on a separate abortion rights measure.

The cannabis case that’s being decided is based on a constitutional challenge to the legalization measure by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), who has asked the court to invalidate the initiative.

“The Court can release opinions at any time,” a spokesperson for the court told Marijuana Moment on Thursday, while strongly signaling that justices would not miss the deadline to act.

It remains unclear why the court declined to issue its opinion on Thursday. Under the “routine release” policy of the Supreme Court of Florida Manual of Internal Operating Procedure, it says: “Unless otherwise directed, on Thursday morning at 11 a.m., ET, the clerk electronically releases the opinions that were furnished to the justices the preceding Thursday.”

It’s possible that the delay is not directly related to the marijuana legalization initiative, as the court is also due to rule on the case concerning abortion rights, meaning there are two hot-button issues that may have led justices not to rush their rulings to meet the Thursday deadline.

When the court does render its ruling, it will have been more than four months after justices heard oral arguments in the case against the Smart and Safe Florida campaign.

The attorney general’s main argument is that the ballot initiative is affirmatively misleading, in part because she says voters would not be able to understand from the summary that marijuana would remain federally illegal even if Florida moved to legalize.

A prior version of the ballot measure was invalidated on constitutional grounds by the same court in 2022 following a separate challenge from Moody’s office.

The campaign and supporters have maintained that the court needs to respect the intent of the citizen initiative process and allow voters the opportunity to decide on the issue after they turned in more than one million signatures for ballot placement that have been certified by the state.

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.

Separately, economic analysts from the Florida legislature and the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) estimate that the marijuana legalization initiative would generate between $195.6 million and $431.3 million in new sales tax revenue annually if voters enact it. And those figures could increase considerably if lawmakers opted to impose an additional excise tax on cannabis transactions that’s similar to the ones in place in other legalized states.

Here’s what the Smart & Safe Florida marijuana legalization initiative would accomplish:

  • Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to three ounces 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.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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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.”

The multi-state marijuana company Trulieve has contributed more than $40 million to the Smart and Safe Florida campaign to date. The state attorney general has accused the company of supporting the measure in order to have a “monopolistic stranglehold” on the state’s cannabis market.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce released a poll in January showing that the marijuana legalization initiative that may appear on the November ballot enjoys majority support from likely voters—but not quite enough to meet the state’s steep 60 percent threshold for passage.

Other previous polls have found that voters are well-positioned to pass the legalization initiative with more than enough support. For example, the University of North Florida put out a survey in December that showed 67 percent of voters back the proposal.

While DeSantis opposes the reform—and pledged not to federally decriminalize marijuana if elected president when he was running—he predicted in January that Florida voters will get a chance to decide on the issue this time.

That said, the governor has raised concerns about cannabis legalization in Florida, saying there could be a “big problem” with some of the provisions of the initiative and complaining that letting adults legally consume cannabis could impact businesses and communities—including as the result of odor.

DeSantis also weighed in on another relevant cannabis policy issue recently when he said that he doesn’t believe the federal gun ban for state-legal marijuana consumers is constitutional. Florida’s former agriculture commissioner brought a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the rule, though the governor did not get involved.

Meanwhile, a Florida bill that sought to cap THC potency if voters approved the legalization initiative at the ballot died this session, much to the relief of cannabis advocates and stakeholders.

Legislation to restrict consumable hemp products and ban delta-8 THC was approved by lawmakers and awaits DeSantis’s action.

Separately, a House subcommittee recently advanced a medical marijuana bill that would waive patient registration and renewal fees for service-disabled military veterans.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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