New law invoked to block recreational marijuana effort


By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
April 16, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) — A new Florida law is being invoked in an attempt to block voters from voting on legalizing recreational marijuana on the 2022 ballot.

Ultimately, it will be up to the Florida Supreme Court to decide.

A new law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis just over a week ago, is already being used to thwart an effort to legalize recreational marijuana.

The Florida Senate recommended the State Supreme Court consider the new law when it decides whether to let the amendment go to the ballot.

“There are a whole range of new requirements,” said Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida.

Previously, the Supreme Court could only strike down a ballot initiative for confusing or misleading voters or containing more than one subject, but the new law will also require the Supreme Court to consider if proposed amendments violate the U.S. Constitution.

Florida’s Attorney General and other opponents have argued the amendment doesn’t inform voters that the federal marijuana prohibition would still be in effect.

That same fact could raise constitutional issues as well.

“You can make that argument, but again if you look back at 2016, the medical marijuana ballot initiative, this issue was never brought up and multiple states, more than 40 states across the United States have either a medical or an adult use recreational initiative. So I think that argument is a little weak,” said Sharkey.

Even if the Supreme Court does allow the amendment to go forward, new signature expiration dates and increased costs to count petitions are guaranteed to make it harder for the initiative to reach the ballot.

“For all of these citizen initiatives it’s going to have a chilling effect for sure,” said Sharkey.

Nick Hansen, Chair of the Make it Legal Florida Campaign tells us he expects the campaign will be able to reach the signature goal for the 2022 ballot.

He anticipates it could take as little as a month to reach the threshold following the Supreme Court review.

The Supreme Court is set to hear the case on May 6, in its first ever video conference due to the coronavirus.

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