A constitutional ballot initiative aimed at legalizing adult-use cannabis in Florida has been struck down, following a split ruling by the state’s Supreme Court.
Pro-Cannabis Ballot Initiative Killed by Florida Supreme Court
On April 22nd, Florida Supreme Court justices voted 5-2, effectively blocking a marijuana legalization proposal from appearing in front of voters in November 2022.
The constitutional ballot initiative, led by the ‘Make It Legal Florida’ activist group, would’ve allowed Florida residents to decide on the issue of adult-use cannabis. The proposal, if passed, would permit, “adults 21 years or older to possess, use, purchase, display, and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and marijuana accessories for personal use for any reason,” and open up recreational sales opportunities for medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida.
The state’s Republican-led Supreme Court took issue with the initiative’s language, ruling the ballot summary as “misleading” because it fails to inform voters that — even if marijuana is legalized on the state level — the possession and distribution of cannabis remains a federal crime.
Chief Justice Charles Canady wrote that, “a constitutional amendment cannot unequivocally ‘permit’ or authorize conduct that is criminalized under federal law. A ballot summary suggesting otherwise is affirmatively misleading.”
At the time of the ruling, Make It Legal Florida was already hard at work collecting the near-900,000 signatures needed to ensure the proposal’s place on the 2022 ballot. The campaign, backed by medical marijuana giants MedMen and Parallel, had already collected 556,000 signatures and spent $8.2 million since kicking off in August 2019. Now, for any hopes of Florida cannabis legalization come 2022, activists have to restart at square one.
“It’s unfortunate because I think Floridians would legalize marijuana for adult use tomorrow if given the opportunity,” said Ben Pollara, a political consultant who spearheaded Florida’s 2016 medical marijuana ballot initiative. “But the reality is that with this decision . . . the chances of seeing something on the 2022 ballot are basically zero. And the chances of seeing something on a future ballot are also pretty damn close to zero.”
Justices Allen Lawson and Jorge LaBarga were the dissenting opinions in the 5-2 decision, with Lawson writing that there’s no need for the initiative to explain “the current state of federal law” or “provide an explanation of secondary ramifications of the proposed amendment”.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is also drawing criticism from Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat in the Sunshine State.
“Florida voters have taken this into their own hands because the Florida Legislature failed to do right by the people in taking legislative action on legalization,” said Fried. “My advice is that they listen to the will of the people or they’ll be out of a job soon.”
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