Florida Justices cast doubt on arguments against recreational marijuana ballot Initiative

The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on whether to give Florida voters the opportunity to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana next year.


It was just one day after Ohio became the 24th state to green-light recreational marijuana.

Justices have blocked two similar efforts in recent years, but unlike those past two citizen initiatives, the one before the court Wednesday has already collected enough signatures to make the ballot.

That means the Florida Supreme Court is the last obstacle standing in the way of voters getting to decide the issue once and for all.

The court is tasked with determining two things:

  1. Is the ballot language misleading?
  2. Does the amendment violate the single-subject rule?

The proposed constitutional amendment would authorize Floridas aged 21 and up to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana for recreational use.

READ: Florida Supreme Court to begin hearing arguments on recreational marijuana use

During Wednesday’s hearing, lawyers testifying on behalf of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody argued the measure should be blocked because it doesn’t properly inform voters marijuana would still be federally illegal.

It was an argument that led to a previous recreational marijuana legalization effort being blocked, but this time justices weren’t nearly as receptive, since the amendment includes specific language addressing the federal prohibition.

“There’s at least ambiguity in this ballot summary that a reasonable voter could look to and think this will not be criminal under federal law,” said Jeffrey DeSousa, the attorney representing Florida’s Attorney General.

“I don’t know how a voter could — What it says, it does not immunize violations of federal law -- how a voter could be confused by that. I just -- I’m baffled by the argument,” responded Justice Charles Canady.

The initiative also allows existing licensed medical marijuana treatment centers to cultivate and sell marijuana for recreational use and authorizes the legislature to provide licenses to additional entities.

Lawyers representing the Florida Chamber of Commerce argued tying the regulatory language with legalization violates the single-subject requirement.

Again, justices didn’t seem to be convinced.

“It seems like this is turning the single subject requirement not into anything other than a straitjacket on the people,” said Canady.

The attorney representing the amendment sponsor reminded the justices, that the language of the amendment was specifically crafted based on critiques and suggestions made by the justices themselves when they struck down the two previous legalization efforts.

“Regardless of standards of review or stare decisis, this is not a case where the language is misleading or that violates the single subject requirement,” said Smart & Safe Florida attorney John Bash.

If the court allows the amendment to go on the ballot the measure will need to garner 60 percent support next November for Florida to become the 25th state to legalize recreational marijuana.

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