Fla. Supreme Court green lights medical pot amendment

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The Florida Supreme Court has approved a proposed constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana in the state, according to an opinion released Thursday.

The court on Thursday found that the amendment “embraces a single subject” and that the ballot title and summary and financial impact statement passed legal muster.

“We therefore approve the proposed amendment and Financial Impact Statement for placement on the ballot,” the court’s unanimous opinion said.

The decision was not necessarily surprising: The court in a 4-3 decision had also OK’d the predecessor amendment backed in 2014 by the same group, People United for Medical Marijuana, supported by Orlando trial attorney John Morgan.

That amendment failed at the ballot last year, 2.4 points shy of the 60 percent needed for passage.

Also, the latest initiative was sent to the court by Attorney General Pam Bondi without the statement of opposition she included for the amendment’s attempt last year.

The court had canceled oral argument set for Dec. 8 in the case after Bondi said she would not oppose the amendment.

Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson spent considerable money to oppose the amendment last year — about $5.5 million — despite the backing of Morgan, who personally gave more than $4 million to the petition drive.

But Ben Pollara, head of People United, has said the latest amendment’s language clarifies issues related to parental consent and the kinds of conditions that would qualify use of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

“The unanimous decision by the Florida Supreme Court to approve the new medical marijuana constitutional amendment is a huge victory for hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians who could benefit from the passage of such a law,” Pollara said in a statement.

The amendment still must gather the required 683,149 valid signatures for placement on the ballot. As of Thursday, it had 400,032.

“While we still must collect the required number of petitions, we are confident that we will, and that Florida voters will approve this amendment in the general election,” Pollara said.

The court’s role in reviewing proposed changes to the state constitution is limited to determining whether the language is misleading and whether an amendment covers just one subject.

Twenty-three states allow medical marijuana through legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but selling marijuana is still a federal crime.

The Obama administration, however, has suggested that federal prosecutors not charge those, particularly “the seriously ill and their caregivers,” who distribute and use medical marijuana under a state law.

Florida already allows a mild strain of marijuana aimed at helping children with severe seizures and muscle spasms, though legislation has been introduced for 2016 that would allow for stronger medicinal pot for end-of-life patients.

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected].


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