Florida Supreme Court Allows Medical Marijuana Initiative on November 2014 Ballot

According to the Florida Supreme Court, Floridians will be afforded the opportunity to vote on whether to adopt an amendment legalizing the medical use of marijuana within the state. In its 4-3 decision approving the placement of the initiative on the state’s November 2014 ballot, the Florida Supreme Court shot down opponents’ arguments that the amendment would be misleading to voters.

The court concluded in its advisory opinion that in reading the ballot as a whole, “the voters will not be affirmatively misled regarding the purpose of the proposed amendment because the ballot title and summary accurately convey the limited use of marijuana, as determined by a licensed Florida physician.” Further, the court found that proponents’ interpretation that “the intent is to allow [marijuana] use for a serious medical condition or disease,” as opposed to “any medical condition for which a physician personally believes that the benefits outweigh the health risks,” is reasonable and supported by the “accepted principles of constitutional interpretation.”

Ben Pollara, Campaign Manager for United for Care, stated that “this is a historic moment for the people of Florida – and in particular, those suffering from debilitating conditions and illnesses,” according to the proponent organization’s news release.

Although the court decided in favor of allowing the initiative to be placed on the ballot, three justices dissented. Chief Justice Polston stated, “the title and summary at issue in this case are affirmatively misleading because they obscure the breadth of medical issues that would qualify for medical marijuana by deceptively employing the term ‘disease’ and by failing to disclose that a physician need only believe that the benefits would likely outweigh the risks.” In addition, the chief justice argued the title and summary are misleading since “they fail to disclose the broad immunity that would be granted if the amendment passes and because they falsely imply that the use and possession of marijuana in accordance with the amendment would not violate federal law.”

However, proponents of the initiative suggest that Justice Polston’s dissent uses the same misleading “wordsmithing” that he criticizes the ballot language of, reports the Miami Herald. State Representative Katie Edwards noted that the Supreme Court’s decision was a “step in the right direction.” She stated, “The bottom line is the Legislature has forced people to go this route. Had we acted last year, had we reacted to patients, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”