A top Florida official is trying to block efforts to let voters decide whether they want medical marijuana.
State Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Tea Party Republican, has asked the Florida Supreme Court to kill a ballot initiative that would make medicinal pot legal in the Sunshine State. Supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment, led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, are gathering the 700,000 signatures they need to put it on the ballot.
Bondi filed her challenge to the initiative with the Supreme Court Oct. 24. It was part of a routine filing triggered when supporters collected nearly 70,000 signatures.
The state’s highest court plays only a limited role in reviewing constitutional amendments, but the justices can declare an initiative invalid under some circumstances. They consider two factors: whether an amendment deals with a single subject and whether the ballot language is clear enough that people will understand what they’re voting on.
Bondi told the Supreme Court the MMJ amendment is deceptive.
“The ballot title and summary suggest that the amendment would allow medical marijuana in narrow, defined circumstances, and only for patients with ‘debilitating diseases,’” she wrote in a letter to the court. “But if the amendment passed, Florida law would allow marijuana in limitless situations.”
Ben Pollara, campaign manager for People United for Medical Marijuana, called Bondi “out of touch” with the lives of suffering patients.
“Attorney General Bondi wants to deny Floridians the opportunity to even vote on this issue,” Pollara said in a statement.
So far, People United has gathered about 95,000 signatures. Polls of Floridians have showed widespread support for medical marijuana, well above the 60 percent needed to approve constitutional amendments.
Bondi’s central argument was that the ballot language is deceptive because it states the amendment’s passage wouldn’t authorize any violation of federal drug laws. That, she said, is impossible because no state amendment could override federal law.
“Because of how the amendment is presented, its true scope and effect remain hidden,” Bondi wrote. “And because Florida voters deserve the truth, this court has long rejected proposals that ‘hide the ball’ as to the amendment’s true effect.”
There are currently 20 states that allow medical marijuana. Florida is one of several states that could join that group in the next few years. The Legislature has refused to enact reform, but a public initiative could do the job – assuming it gets past the state Supreme Court.