A political action committee in Florida is spearheading a petition drive to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana in the state, after two previous legalization efforts this year were stymied by the courts.
Sensible Florida PAC announced on Friday that it was kicking off “a new petition drive for a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that will permit adults 21 and older to grow and use marijuana.”
The group said it has initiated “an aggressive campaign” in order to get the proposal on next year’s ballot.
The timing of the petition drive may strike some as unusual, and the prospects of qualifying for the 2022 ballot might seem dim.
Cannabis Progress Previously Halted in Florida
In June, a different constitutional amendment proposed by Sensible Florida was ruled unconstitutional by the state’s Supreme Court. A majority of the justices took issue with the proposed amendment’s language, particularly the portion that said marijuana would be legalized “for limited use and growing by persons 21 years of age or older,” saying it was “misleading.”
“As an initial matter, the initiative’s ‘age limit’ is clearly not the “limited use” contemplated by the ballot summary,” the majority opinion said. “Indeed, the summary tells voters that the measure will regulate marijuana ‘for limited use… by persons 21 years of age or older.’ The summary thus informs voters that the initiative imposes use limitations on age-eligible persons, not that the age limitation is itself a ‘use’ limitation.
“Secondly, ‘use’ cannot be synonymous with ‘possession,’ ‘growing,’ or ‘gifting.’ Indeed, the initiative separately addresses those activities… 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.”
“We conclude that the language in the ballot summary indicating that the proposed amendment “regulates marijuana … for limited use … by persons 21 years of age or older” is affirmatively misleading and fails to comply with section 101.161(1), Florida Statutes,” the opinion continued. “Accordingly, the proposed amendment should not be placed on the ballot.”
Sensible Florida said at the time that it would go back to the drawing board and offer up a new amendment with the intention of qualifying for next year’s ballot. But for legalization advocates in the Sunshine State, the June ruling by the state Supreme Court was all too familiar. In April, the court struck down a different ballot measure that aimed to legalize recreational pot use in the state, saying that proposal’s language was also misleading.
In that decision, the court specifically took issue with the notion that the measure would not change federal law against marijuana.
“A constitutional amendment cannot unequivocally ‘permit’ or authorize conduct that is criminalized under federal law,” Chief Justice Charles Canady wrote. “A ballot summary suggesting otherwise is affirmatively misleading.”
The challenges to each proposal were backed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican.
“We thank the Florida Supreme Court for their time and attention to this issue and respect their ruling,” a Moody spokesperson said after the state Supreme Court’s ruling in April. “Floridians must fully understand what they are voting on when they go to the ballot box.”
Other Florida politicians were upset by the decisions. Congressman Charlie Crist, who previously served as governor of the state, lamented June’s ruling and laid blame on Florida’s current governor, Republican Ron DeSantis.
“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 at the time.