Libertarian group Cato Institute joins fight for recreational marijuana in Florida

by | Jul 20, 2023

  • Recreational marijuana supporters in Florida are urging the state Supreme Court to approve the ballot language for a citizen-led initiative to legalize recreational marijuana.
  • The Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, and the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida have filed briefs in support of the measure.
  • The briefs were filed in response to Attorney General Ashley Moody’s claim that the ballot initiative is misleading and fails to address potential regulatory gaps
  • But proponents of the amendment argue that Florida’s history of marijuana regulation proves otherwise.
  • The Supreme Court is expected to schedule oral arguments before issuing a final ruling.

Recreational marijuana supporters today urged the Florida Supreme Court to approve the ballot language of a citizen-led effort to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Libertarian policy group Cato Institute, a Washington-based think-tank, filed a friend-of-the-court brief Wednesday in support of the measure. A separate brief was also filed by the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida. The association is closely linked to Smart & Safe Florida, a political committee sponsoring the marijuana legalization initiative.

Both of the newly filed briefs took issue with Attorney General Ashley Moody’s previously filed opinion that the ballot initiative should be thrown off the ballot for a variety of reasons, including that it misleads voters about the regulatory environment that will exist if the measure passes.

Moody argued that the summary of the proposed amendment is misleading, failing to clarify the potential regulatory gap for recreational marijuana. That lack of regulation, according to the Attorney General, could lead to the uncontrolled sale and misuse of marijuana. To support her argument, Moody claimed that establishing comprehensive rules for regulating recreational marijuana could take years, leaving a period of potential unregulated use.

But lawyers for the proponents of the proposed amendment told the court today that Florida’s history of marijuana regulation prove Moody’s argument to be false. They argue that the ballot language does in fact provide a mechanism for regulating recreational marijuana, relying on the existing authorities, including the Legislature and the Department of Health, and their experience in managing medical marijuana. The brief also asserted that Florida’s successful nine-year track record in regulating the marijuana industry demonstrates the state’s capability to effectively handle potential regulatory changes, even as the industry evolves.

Cato’s legal brief, meanwhile, zeroed in on how the court should interpret the so-called “single-subject rule,” which has, in the past, been used as a legal method to block citizen-led initiatives. The single-subject rule is a principle stating that a law or amendment should only concern one main issue. Cato noted the rule has traditionally been applied more strictly to citizens than to the state legislature, but suggests that this is not in line with the original intent or history of citizen initiatives. Cato’s brief argued that rule was initially intended to prevent harmful legislative practices such as “logrolling,” where unpopular proposals are attached to popular ones to get them passed, and “riders,” a technique used commonly in the state legislature to tack on unpopular legal provisions to an unrelated but more popular bill. Cato pointed out that those tactics are less of a concern with citizen initiatives because citizens themselves are voting on the proposals, making such underhanded tactics less likely.

“Citizen initiatives to amend the state Constitution are a tool by which citizens control and check their government,” Cato’s brief said. “But Florida courts sometimes unduly restrict citizen initiatives through misapplication of the single-subject rule.”

Additionally, the Cato Institute maintained that this more lenient approach to citizen initiatives aligns better with democratic self-determination, arguing that an overly stringent interpretation could prevent the public from exerting control over their government.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Moody has opposed the move, contending that the ballot question confuses voters and fails to sufficiently clarify the distinction between federal and state laws concerning marijuana use. It’s important to note that while the proposed amendment would legalize marijuana in Florida, federal law still considers the drug illegal.

The Florida Supreme Court is expected to schedule and hear oral arguments by all parties prior to issuing a final ruling.


  1. Brian Kelly

    It’s time for us, the majority of The People to take back control of our national cannabis policy. By voting OUT of office any and all politicians who very publicly and vocally admit to having an anti-cannabis, prohibitionist agenda! Time to vote’em all OUT of office. Period. Plain and simple.

    Politicians who continue to demonize Cannabis, Corrupt Law Enforcement Officials who prefer to ruin peoples lives over Cannabis possession rather than solve real crimes who fund their departments toys and salaries with monies acquired through cannabis home raids, seizures and forfeitures, and so-called “Addiction Specialists” who make their income off of the judicial misfortunes of our citizens who choose cannabis, – Your actions go against The Will of The People and Your Days In Office Are Numbered! Find new careers before you don’t have one.

    The People have spoken! Get on-board with Cannabis Legalization Nationwide, or be left behind and find new careers. Your choice.

    Legalize federally now. What’s legal to possess and consume in nearly half of The United States should not make you a criminal in states still being governed by woefully ignorant prohibitionist politicians.

    Cannabis consumers in all states deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Nationwide Federally Now!

  2. Brock d’Avignon

    De-legalize (fill in the blank), not permit by legalization

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