© Florida Phoenix
Supporters of a proposed 2024 constitutional amendment that would legalize recreational cannabis in Florida contend in a new filing that Attorney General Ashley Moody is abruptly changing course on what the Florida Supreme Court has said in the past about getting pot amendments on the ballot.
The 99-page filing of the Smart & Safe Florida (SSF) group essentially says that Moody’s arguments should be discarded because she is calling on the high court to drop their own recent precedents.
“The fact that the attorney general must resort to such extreme and destabilizing arguments confirms that the Initiative readily complies with settled standards,” according to the filing.
Smart & Safe Florida (SSF) is behind the cannabis proposal that has already gathered more than one million valid signatures from registered voters in Florida to get on the 2024 ballot.
The organization has been funded to the tune of nearly $40 million by Trulieve, the state’s largest marijuana operator. The last step for the group is to get approval from the high court, which is required to ensure that the ballot language of the proposal satisfies the single-subject requirement and is written in clean and unambiguous language.
The official ballot summary as written allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise, and allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell and distribute such products and accessories.
While medical marijuana has been legal in Florida since voters approved a ballot measure in 2016, there have been previous attempts to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot to legalize recreational cannabis that have been rejected by the Florida Supreme Court.
The high court said that a 2021 proposal contained a misleading ballot summary, in part because it failed to say anything about federal marijuana laws, and thus would potentially lead some voters to conclude that the amendment would eliminate federal penalties as well.
In her brief filed late last month, Moody stayed on that topic as well by saying that the current ballot summary would “allow” the recreational use of marijuana, but that it would remain illegal in Florida because of the federal Controlled Substances Act, “which makes marijuana a Schedule I substance generally prohibited nationwide.”
The filing from Smart & Safe argues that they have addressed that issue in the current ballot language before the court, writing that “The ballot summary explains that the amendment ‘[a]pplies to Florida law’ and ‘does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law’—tracking the language this Court has already approved.”
Smart & Safe’s legal brief goes on to note that the other arguments brought forth not only by Moody but by other opponents including Drug Free America and the Florida Chamber of Commerce should also be dismissed by the court.
The libertarian-leaning Cato Institute and the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida also submitted briefs Wednesday night in support of the ballot proposal and to state that the ballot title and summary are not misleading.
Last week the state Financial Impact Estimating Conference estimated that if the proposed constitutional amendment passes it would generate at least $196.5 million annually in state and local revenues once the legal retail market was fully operational, with the potential to rise up to $431 million.
The analysis also determined that the majority (82.7%) of the anticipated sales revenues are estimated to come from the black market of users moving to the legal retail market. Combining those customers with current medical marijuana consumers would increase that market up to 97.5% of all anticipated sales, with 2.5 percent of sales due to “new tourists, new usage associated with returning users, and increased use by existing users.”