The Florida Chamber of Commerce is applauding a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday after it rejected a constitutional amendment that would allow Floridians to use recreational marijuana.
In a 5-2 ruling, the Supreme Court rejected the proposed amendment set to be on the 2022 ballot. The constitutional ballot initiative spearheaded by Make it Legal Florida was struck down by the high court, with justices ruling that the amendment was “misleading.” The proposal, submitted by hundreds of thousands of petition signatures, would have allowed Florida voters to have the final say in whether to allow people older than 21 to possess and use up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The initiative’s sponsor had raised $8.2 million for the effort and had gathered more than 556,000 signatures out of the 891,589 needed for it to make the 2022 ballot.
Specifically, the majority of justices took issue with the use of the word “permit” in the ballot summary, arguing that the amendment did not adequately explain to Florida residents that the initiative, if passed, would make marijuana legal in the state, but not federally.
“A constitutional amendment cannot unequivocally ‘permit’ or authorize conduct that is criminalized under federal law,” said the majority opinion shared by Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston, Carlos Muniz, John Couriel and Jamie Grosshans. “And a ballot summary suggesting otherwise is affirmatively misleading.”
Several people opposed the ballot proposal, with Attorney General Ashley Moody and leaders in the House and Senate speaking out against it. Today’s ruling also drew praise from several associations, including the Florida Chamber. CEO Mark Wilson released a statement shortly after the court tossed the initiative, applauding the Florida Supreme Court for declaring the proposed marijuana legalization amendment misleading.
“The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Litigation and Regulatory Reform Center filed an amicus brief with the Court contending this proposed effort intentionally misled voters, and the Florida Chamber applauds the Court for reaching the same conclusion and protecting voters from efforts to obscure the initiative’s true purpose,” Wilson said. “The Florida Chamber will fight in any venue – legislative, legal or the court of public opinion – to keep Florida, Florida, and ensure efforts to utilize ballot initiatives to circumvent the appropriate legislative process are unsuccessful.”
Congrats @AGAshleyMoody and TY for your leadership against the proposed constitutional amendment legalizing full blown recreational pot in FL which was determined to be misleading by @flcourts. See the ruling here: https://t.co/MGNUfzDxTw
— Florida Chamber (@FlChamber) April 22, 2021
But pro-cannabis users say the ruling by the conservative court goes too far and attempts to usurp the will of Florida voters. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Alan Lawson said the majority broke from precedent in its analysis of the ballot summary.
“Today’s decision underestimates Florida voters and adds hurdles to the citizen-initiative process that are not supported by the plain language of the governing law or our precedent,” Lawson wrote. “Because the ballot summary in this case complies with the constitutional and statutory requirements by which we are to judge ballot summaries, I would apply our precedent and approve this measure for placement on the ballot.”
Had the amendment made the ballot, the provision would have required 60 percent of the vote to be added to the state Constitution.