Florida Supreme Court to issue ballot initiative decisions on Monday

by | Mar 29, 2024

The Florida Supreme Court announced on Thursday that it will release its decisions on recreational marijuana and abortion access ballot initiatives on Monday afternoon.

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday announced that it will deliver rulings on Monday regarding the future of recreational marijuana and abortion access in the state.

Despite expectations for a Thursday morning release in order to meet an April 1 deadline, the Florida Supreme Court did not issue its anticipated rulings on the pair of ballot initiatives, leaving observers awaiting updates past the usual 11:00 A.M. update time without any new decisions. With the Court closed on Friday in observance of Good Friday, it informed members of the media that to meet compliance with the deadline, opinions will be posted at 4 P.M. on Monday.

“The Florida Supreme Court will release out-of-calendar opinions at 4 P.M. EDT on Monday, April 1, 2024,” the Court posted on X.

The proposed marijuana constitutional amendment, backed by Smart & Safe Florida and heavily funded by cannabis retailer Trulieve, aims to permit adults aged 21 and older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products for non-medical use. The measure has received enough signatures to appear on 2024 ballots, pending the Supreme Court decision on Monday.

Attorney General Ashley Moody has expressed reservations regarding the initiative, questioning its compliance with the state law that mandates constitutional amendments to focus on a single subject.

During oral arguments in front of the Florida Supreme Court in November, Justices scrutinized the state’s effort to block the measure from appearing on the ballot. The state contended that the ballot summary is misleading, arguing it fails to adequately inform voters of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law.

Despite this, Gov. Ron DeSantis, on the campaign trail in January, indicated that he expects Sunshine State voters to see the initiative on 2024 ballots. If ratified, state economists estimate the initiative could generate between $195.6 million and $431.3 million in annual sales tax revenue.

The proposed abortion amendment, meanwhile, seeks to establish the right to abortion in Florida up until the point of fetal viability — estimated at around 24 weeks. Current state law prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and courts are deciding on an expanded six-week abortion limit.

Last month, the Court heard oral arguments pertaining to the amendment, where the Attorney General asserted that the proposal misleadingly claims it would prevent any laws from “prohibiting, penalizing, delaying, or restricting abortion,” despite federal laws like the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act that impose such restrictions. The justices scrutinized the argument’s premise, questioning the extent to which voters should be expected to understand the legal nuances the amendment implies, especially in light of federal constraints.

“It’s pretty obvious this is an aggressive approach to dealing with this issue,” Chief Justice Carlos G. Muñiz said. “The people of Florida aren’t stupid, they can figure out what this says.”

Following the oral arguments, the State Executive Committee of the Republican Party of Florida  formally declared its opposition to the amendment. Per a document submitted by the party and signed by Chairman Evan Power, the resolution is predicated upon the belief that life begins at conception and criticizes efforts to circumvent legislative processes by directly presenting the amendment to voters, perceived as undermining Florida’s legislative and judicial authority.

“Radical activists have collected petition signatures that would place on the November ballot a constitutional amendment that would enshrine abortions … which would bypass the delegated authority of the Legislature and override the right to life laws in effect in the State of Florida,” reads a portion of the decree.

The party additionally pledged support for Attorney General Ashley Moody in her challenge against the amendment’s language, which could prevent it from reaching ballots in November if the Court sides in favor of the state on Monday.


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