The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 5-2 that the proposed recreational cannabis legalization ballot initiative would run afoul of federal law and that constitutional amendments “cannot unequivocally ‘permit’ or authorize conduct that is criminalized under federal law,” the Miami Herald reports.
The court described the ballot initiative by Make it Legal Florida as “affirmatively misleading” in that it did not to enough to inform voters that cannabis would remain federally prohibited despite state legalization.
The case was brought to the court by Attorney General Ashley Moody, who had asked the justices to advise whether the initiative would be suitable for a future ballot. In a statement following the decision, Moody’s office thanked the court for “their time and attention” to the issue and that the office respects the decision.
“Floridians must fully understand what they are voting on when they go to the ballot box,” the statement said.
Juan-Carlos “J.C.” Planas, an attorney who specializes in state law dealing with constitutional ballot language, explained to the Herald that the court essentially argued that activists should have found a way to explain how the proposal would run in opposition to federal law – along with all of the other legalization details – in the summary of the question, which is limited to just 75 words.
“I almost gagged reading [the opinion]. I don’t care about the marijuana, per se. My issue is, how the hell do you craft a constitutional amendment now?” – Planas to the Herald
Ben Pollara, who ran the successful 2016 medical cannabis campaign, told the Herald that the decision represented the court’s shift to the right as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed three of court’s justices; all of which were in the majority on the decision. The state House and Senate also filed briefs opposing the reforms.
“Floridians would legalize marijuana tomorrow if given the opportunity to do so, but that’s clearly not what Tallahassee wants,” Pollara said to the Herald.
Make it Legal Florida, supported by the Florida medical cannabis industry, had raised $8.2 million for the initiative and gathered more than 556,000 signatures out of the 891,589 needed for the measure to make the 2022 ballot. It would have required 60% of voter approval to be added to the state constitution.
The campaign would have to redraft the proposal from scratch in order to have a chance at making a future ballot.
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