Proposed Amendment To Legalize Medical Marijuana In Florida Faces Court Hearing

Florida's Supreme Court will hear opponents trying to stop a medical marijuana amendment. (Photo via quite peculiar/Flickr)

Florida’s Supreme Court will hear opponents trying to stop a medical marijuana amendment. (Photo via quite peculiar/Flickr)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

The fight over a proposed amendment to the state’s Constitution that would legalize medical marijuana is making its way this week to the Florida Supreme Court.

State GOP leaders, such as Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, have been railing against a citizen-led initiative to get a medical marijuana amendment on next year’s ballot.

Most recently, the initiative has garnered financial support for John Morgan, a wealthy trial lawyer in Florida.

Since then, the amendment campaign has gotten closer to the amount of signatures it needs to get the measure on the 2014 ballot. Now, opponents of the amendment are looking to stop it in court. According to Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Herald-Tribune:

On Dec. 5, the justices will hear arguments over the language of the proposal that will be on the November 2014 ballot if sponsors secure nearly 700,000 validated voter signatures by early next year.

Opponents, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, legislative leaders, doctors and anti-drug groups, will argue that the ballot language is misleading and would lead to the widespread use of marijuana far beyond the treatment of Floridians for debilitating diseases like cancer or ALS.

… The Supreme Court decision will pivot on two issues: whether the ballot language is accurate and whether the proposal encompasses a “single subject.”

Opponents say the measure misses the mark on both counts.

In a brief filed this month, Bondi, the state’s top legal officer, argued that the amendment is so broadly written that while it will allow patients with cancer and other serious diseases to use medical marijuana, it would also make it available to other Floridians with less debilitating ailments, ranging from insomnia to anxiety to “everyday aches and pains.”

“If voters want to make Florida one of the most permissive medical marijuana states in the country they can use their constitutional initiative power to do so. That is their right,” the brief said.

But Bondi argued the amendment must be rejected by the court because ballot language does not reveal the initiative’s “true purpose.”

Other GOP leaders in the state, such as Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, also filed briefs with the court in an effort to have it thrown out.

However, new polling suggests Bondi, Weatherford and others are in the minority. According to a Quinnipiac Poll released a few weeks ago, if the amendment were on the ballot today, it would pass overwhelmingly in Florida with 82 percent of the vote. The Miami Herald reported:

The overall 82-16 percent support for medical marijuana is the biggest to date. The previous high-point for Florida approval was about 70 percent in a poll taken earlier this year by the medical-marijuana advocacy group, People United for Medical Marijuana.

There are some differences in wording between the initiative and the Quinnipiac poll; the amendment says doctors can “recommend” marijuana, the poll asks if a doctor should be able to “prescribe” it.

Still, medical marijuana is clearly popular. And marijuana legalization is becoming more-liked as well, albeit narrowly.

Nearly half of Florida voters favor it — 48 percent — while 46 percent oppose pot legalization for personal use. That’s within the margin of error, but it’s a leading indicator of a shift in public opinion. Support for legalization is again strongest among independents (57-37 percent), and then Democrats (55-39 percent).

But Republicans are opposed 30-64 percent. Contrast that with GOP voter support for medical marijuana is solid: 70-26 percent.

This issue has become so popular that there is talk it could affect the 2014 gubernatorial race in Florida.

As of now, Gov. Rick Scott is against the medical marijuana amendment. His Democratic opponents, including former governor Charlie Crist, are for the amendment. Crist recently said in an interview with WJCT that the amendment is “an issue of compassion.” Via WJCT:

“You have people who feel that if there are people who are suffering through pain or lack of appetite, and you have a real doctor who prescribes medical marijuana, then I don’t know why you would really be opposed to it, and so I’m not opposed to it,” [Crist] said, citing recent poll number showing over 80 percent of state residents in support of the measure.

“I think it’s fine,” he said, adding that he supports the approval of using the drug for medical treatment only as prescribed by a physician.

Some supporters have also said that the GOP is most worried that if the amendment is on the ballot it will turn out Democratic voters for Scott’s re-election campaign. Democrats don’t turn out in high numbers during mid-term elections, which has given Republicans and edge in the past several Florida gubernatorial elections.

However, this ballot measure could be the impetus to bring out droves of anti-Scott voters.

Considering the 2014 race is already one of the most closely-watched in the country, any factor that could tip the scales is going to get a lot of scrutiny.

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18 Responses to “Proposed Amendment To Legalize Medical Marijuana In Florida Faces Court Hearing”

  1. Michelle says:

    That would be fantastic if this went through! It’s about time that we finally legalize marijuana once and for all. Between the medical benefits that it has, and the fact that it’s not nearly as dangerous as people make it out to be, it should have been allowed a long time ago.

  2. roberto says:

    We should just let people get hooked on prescription pills instead Like oxycodone.

  3. Robin kann says:

    Wouldn’t we rather people be prescribed marijuana instead of oxycodone and zanex? Just look at the overdose fatalities. People could have pain relife with no possibility of overdose.

  4. i will use it no matter what. this gov sucks. use what ever i want when i want i have ins. go fuck yourself.

  5. Hugo says:

    I am a LEGAL user of cannabis in Oregon. I have Multiple Sclerosis and used to take drugs with side effects such as: Seizures, coma, death, addiction, Tardive dyskinesia, suicidal ideation…just to name a few. My quality of life was zilch. All of those medications are gone!

    I can go to a dispensary where my ID is checked before I can even get in the door. I am able to obtain “Medibles”, tinctures and other medications since I am unable to smoke. The only side effect? My weight has gone up 15 pounds.

    As a former Emergency Room – Trauma Tech, I can tell you that the carnage from Alcohol FAR outweighs any potential issues from cannabis.

  6. Jose A. Figueroa says:

    Its been past over due that not only Florida but the whole country take a step back and look and realize the multiple benefits that Marijuana has not only for millions of patients suffering from multiple diseases and ailments but economically as well, those creating millions and millions of revenue to each state, jobs and mostly without the side effects of so many pharmaceuticals. As an Register Nurse and professional care giver I can speak that at least more than 75% of our medical professionals are in agreement of these monumental change.

  7. brandon says:

    Why make it just for medical uses why dont we just legalize it period we are just delayingthe enabatable honestly the ignarence is apualing. Why waste our time and the courts and not just legalize it as amsterdam has smoking within a coffee shop that has a legal liseance to grow and sell within the coffee shop or within our own homes! We have a right to atleast put that on the poll i was waiting on this for years but we need to take two steps forward not one step back if most of florida wants it legalized well we are creating an agreement really for those who do and those who dont we arent smoking outside or dealing on the streets there is a very reasonable way we can go about things.

  8. Misty says:

    I THINK IT WOULD BE THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD IT WOULD ESPECIALLY BE BENEFICIAL TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE MEDICAL NEEDS FOR IT, PEOPLE WHO SUFFER FROM INSOMNIA OR PTSD COME ON PEOPLE ITS A PLANT. IT SURE IS A LOT SAFER THEN PUMPING CHEMICALS IN UR BODY THAT COULD POTENTIALLY KILL U.

  9. Misty says:

    THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO BENEFIT FROM MEDICAL MARIJUANA THEN JUST SMOKING IT, U CAN USE A VAPORIZER, OR MAKE BUTTER, OILS, COOKIES, USE CAN EVEN MAKE IT O WHERE U CAN USE AN EYE DROPPER AND PUT A COUPLE DROPS UNDER UR TONGUE, THERE ARE WAYS TO MAKE IT TO WHERE U DONT HV TO SMOKE IT.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Legalize it completely not just for medicinal and recreational uses but for the industrial values it has. Hemp at one point was the leading crop in America. One acer of hemp can produce as much paper as 47 acers of trees. Congress should make it legal for recreational uses and just tax the shit out of it. The average price of mj in a dispensers in Cali is about 15 bucks a gram with it being taxed. People never complain about the price and the California government is making lucrative Amounts of money. Every body wins why is it still illegal?

  11. Anonymous says:

    The first candidate for florida governor that says they fully support the full legalization of marijuana and would push forward a market to boost our economy here in florida, will get my vote undoubtedly. Lets keep our young men and women out of jail for doing what most of The UNITED States of America are already doing.

  12. “WE THE PEOPLE”
    The Tenth Amendment states the Constitution’s principle of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the states, are reserved to the states or the PEOPLE. The amendment provides no new powers or rights to the states, but rather preserves their authority in all matters not specifically granted to the federal government.

  13. James Schubert says:

    I agree with everyone’s comments about marijuana being better for patients than the current prescribed poisons which kill thousands of Americans annually. There is no reason why non-medical, regulated sales couldn’t be done like alcohol and cigarettes except for the horrific damage it would do to the drug cartels which get more than 60 percent of their income from marijuana prohibition. Any politician opposed to legalization should be investigated for ties to the cartel, privatized prison corporations and/or big pharma because they are the only organizations that benefit from prohibition. Ending prohibition would cut the legs out from under the cartel, and reduce the money we pay to incarcerate our neighbors by 60 percent. We could use those prison cells to house corrupt politicians.

  14. willie washington says:

    The truth is the big boys that sit up high and get rich off of the pharmaceuticals dont want it to be legal. I watched my uncle wither away to nothing after contracting the Aids virus and he was always in constant pain.I watched a 6’3″ 240 man dissolve right before my eyes and their was nothing I could do to ease his pain. Medical marijuana have several benefits to it, thats why the government have been using it for years for experiments. Its a natural plant from the earth in which needs no altering to supply the relief that most of our love ones need to feel at ease as they take their final journey. Im a 35 year old veteran that supports the legalization of medical marijuana because i have seen the benefits it brings to people in need. Alcohol and cigarettes which contains a lot more dangerous chemicals in them is legal then so should marijuana. Thank you Mr. Morgan for your fight to bring this injustice to the forefront for all the people.

  15. jimmy says:

    I got injured in 1991 from and industrial accindent.i got totally disabled in 1996 and have had surgery s after surgery s and have had 3 spinal cord stimulator implants in my spine.still today am in the worst chronic pain I have ever been in.i take the strongest medicine
    possible that’s killing me.why not allow it for people that have cancer and diseases and severe chronic pain that would help us.the guy that wrote it about the giant pharmacies are making billions and billions they don’t want it because it will cost them money. But they don’t care about us they are buying off all that might cost them or get in their way.allow it and it will help us have a little better life.if the governor was in our shape he would want it too.i pray Congress will pass it for people like us who are in need of something better to help our pain.=

  16. Christopher says:

    I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and have bad anxiety. I support medical marijuana. But if it pass it only seems to be for people with cancer and other problems like that what about the thousands of us who don’t have cancer or other serious diseases. The amendment seems to exclude us but the other 20 state that pasted this did not I’d much rather take marijuana then the 6 mg of xanex I take know and if the amendment is going to exclude me I might vote against it!

  17. Joe says:

    I had a traumatic brain injury 11+ years ago. It will always be hard for me to make it through the day. I was born and raised in Florida. I’m now living in south Carolina. If weed was legalized down there I would move right back down there with my family. I cannot afford to move to the other states because of money, lack of work, etc. the doctors have me on so many medications but the refuse to give me anything for my depression or my pain or my anxiety, PTSD, tremors, etc… The list goes on and on. All my medications have multiple side effects. Different ones at different times of the day. Weed really helps. I cannot hardly find it where I’m at now. And I think it’s absolute fucking bullshit that I be arrested for trying to cope with my pain. Legalize it. Theres a time to be responsible, and theres a time to just go beyond that and say it how it is… So, will, Scott, bondi, and the rest opposed to the legalization of medicinal mariuana… FUCK YOU.

  18. dean says:

    Was hit by a drunk driver in pain all day every day just pasd the stuff or ill be moving to colorodo in 2015 had enoughh of fibromiyalgis spine pain w multiple spine surgerys etc multitude of major pain issues mariuana helps immmensly pass a. Llaw or lo s e a fla resident I also suffer from major chronic pain need pharmacutical grade ganja period plz help dino fm fl also suffer from ptsd anxiety and post concussive syndrome hve very bad arthritis

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