Florida Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative Survives Legal Challenge

CREDIT: Associated Press

Pot City Cultivation

CREDIT: Associated Press

By a slim margin, the Florida Supreme Court rejected challenges Monday to a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. The proposed constitutional amendment will now go before voters in November, and if approved, would authorize physician prescriptions of medical marijuana for “debilitating conditions,” and a regulatory scheme for dispensaries.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is required to send all ballot initiatives to the state Supreme Court for review. But in her petition, she challenged the intiative’s vailidity, claiming the summary that would appear on the ballot misled voters about the nature of the amendment proposal and claimed it would “allow marijuana in limitless situations.” Conservative groups and Republican lawmakers filed amicus briefs claiming the amendment is intended to dupe voters into widespread legalization.

But the court found that the proposed amendment does not provide “open-ended” authorization to doctors in prescribing marijuana. “[W]e hold that the voters are given fair notice as to the chief purpose and scope of the proposed amendment, which is to allow a restricted use of marijuana for certain ‘debilitating’ medical conditions,” the majority concluded.

Moves to legalize medical marijuana through the legislature have failed on several occasions, and among those who challenged the measure were the Republican leaders of the state House and Senate. But polling shows voter support for a medical marijuana law is overwhelming. Gov. Rick Scott (R) has said he will vote against the initiative. And while he will have no control over passage of the initiative, some Republicans worry its presence on the ballot will drive the turnout of young voters, more likely to be Democrats.