The Florida Supreme Court ruled against another ballot measure that would allow its citizens to vote on marijuana reform.
The court ruled 5-2 Thursday that a ballot initiative currently getting signatures to legalize marijuana was misleading. “Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol to Establish Age, Licensing, and Other Restrictions” would legalize cannabis and allow adults to grow marijuana at home. As with all initiatives in the Sunshine State, it would have needed 60% approval by voters to become a part of the state Constitution.
Justices found the word “use” problematic in the ballot summary, which said the amendment would regulate marijuana “for limited use and growing by persons twenty-one years of age or older.”
“We have already rewritten some alternate versions. It’s really a welcome thing just to finally have the opinion.”CEO of Sensible Florida Michael Minardi
A majority of justices found that this could mean the initiative’s backers were claiming to set limits on the amount of cannabis an individual could personally consume. But the justices wrote that the language of the constitutional amendment set no such limits.
“The Sponsor’s inability to point to anything in the text of the measure that could credibly support the ‘limited use’ language in the summary leaves no doubt that the summary is affirmatively misleading,” the justices wrote in their opinion.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody had asked the court to weigh in on the ballot language in September 2019, and it took the court the better part of two years to issue its ruling. The long wait between Moody’s request and the court’s ruling probably hurt the initiative’s prospects, according to Nicholas Warren, an attorney with the ACLU of Florida.
“The Florida Supreme Court is killing initiatives by parking them in legal limbo,” Warren told the Tampa Bay Times.
Former Gov. and current Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who hopes to challenge Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2022 governor’s race, also blasted the court’s decision.
“The Florida Supreme Court that @GovRonDeSantis packed with partisan judges just denied another ballot initiative to let Floridians vote on legalizing marijuana. This is wrong. Legalization should be up to the people of Florida,” Crist tweeted.
The Florida Supreme Court that @GovRonDeSantis packed with partisan judges just denied another ballot initiative to let Floridians vote on legalizing marijuana.— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) June 17, 2021
This is wrong. Legalization should be up to the people of Florida. https://t.co/wca7kUycbL
This follows a ruling by the same court in March that also said another proposed amendment to legalize recreational marijuana was “misleading,” effectively ending the issue’s chances of getting on the ballot in 2022.
Sensible Florida, had collected 29,172 of the necessary 891,589 signatures to be placed on the ballot. The group had raised about $271,000, though most successful ballot initiatives cost millions of dollars.
The legislature passed a law this year that limits individual campaign contributions to groups backing or opposing ballot initiatives to $3,000 until the proposal is cleared for the ballot.
“The Florida Supreme Court is killing initiatives by parking them in legal limbo.”Nicholas Warren
Courts continue to be involved with state legalization efforts across the country. The Mississippi Supreme Court recently invalidated a reform measure that overwhelmingly passed at the ballot in November.
A Nebraska campaign collected enough signatures for a reform initiative in 2020, but the state Supreme Court said the measure violated the state’s single-subject rule. Over in South Dakota, the fate of an adult-use legalization initiative that voters approved is now before the state’s Supreme Court.
The trend is troubling to advocates, which is why the disappointment being felt in Florida isn’t seen as insurmountable, Tampa attorney Michael Minardi, CEO of Sensible Florida told the Tampa Bay Times. He plans to press on with a redraft of the proposal in the hope of getting a version of the amendment before voters in 2022.
“We have already rewritten some alternate versions,” he told the Times. “It’s really a welcome thing just to finally have the opinion.”
This piece was originally published by Marijuana Moment and has been edited or modified by The News Station.