Recreational marijuana ballot language gets its day at the Florida Supreme Court

by | Oct 4, 2023

  • The Florida Supreme Court has officially set November 8th for oral arguments on Florida’s recreational marijuana legalization amendment.
  • Smart & Safe Florida, backed by medical marijuana juggernaut Trulieve, supports the initiative, while Attorney General Ashley Moody seeks to block it.
  • If the court rules in favor of Smart and Safe Florida, the issue will go to voters. But if the court rules against the ballot language, there is no appeals process.

The Florida Supreme Court has set November 8th as the date for oral arguments to decide the fate of a proposed constitutional amendment for the legalization of recreational marijuana. The Smart & Safe Florida political committee is backing the initiative, but Attorney General Ashley Moody has asked the high court to block approval on the proposed ballot language to prevent the matter from going to voters in the 2024 election.

The proposal, which aims to permit adults aged 21 and older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products for non-medical use, has garnered opposition from some sectors of the business community and a handful of key Republicans, including Moody.  The Supreme Court’s role is to ensure the ballot wording isn’t confusing and addresses a single subject. Trulieve, the state’s largest medical marijuana operator, has provided an estimated $50 million to the Smart & Safe Florida committee, which has already submitted the required number of valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

“We look forward to the Smart & Safe campaign presenting its case to the Florida Supreme Court,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said. “We hope the court will ignore the political rhetoric, stick to the law and give Floridians the opportunity to vote on this important initiative.”

The matter is now entirely in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court, and there is no chance for an appeal if things don’t go Trulieve’s way.

“With upcoming oral arguments, we want to restate the fact that the language was drafted very conservatively and with the guidance of this very court,” said Smart and Safe Florida spokesman Steven Vancore. “We anticipate that the court will stick to its deferential standard of review and will agree that the language strictly adheres to the law and the Florida constitution and will give the voters the opportunity to vote on this subject.”

But Moody has strongly contested the proposed amendment, suggesting it misleads voters. Her office argues that the measure appears to favor Trulieve, which has largely funded the nearly $40 million campaign by the Smart & Safe Florida political committee. Moody’s office has questioned the wording of the proposed ballot summary, particularly the use of the term “allows,” stating that marijuana possession would still be illegal under federal law.

In a legal showdown, both parties have filed briefs for the Supreme Court’s review. Smart & Safe Florida’s legal team rebuked Moody’s accusations as a “thinly veiled policy agenda.” Meanwhile, Moody’s office fired back, arguing that Trulieve’s business model is based on the “reckless violation of federal criminal law.”

The court’s decision will not only be pivotal for Florida’s legal landscape but could also serve as a precedent for other states contemplating similar measures. Previous attempts at legalizing recreational marijuana in Florida have failed to meet constitutional requirements. Lawyers for Smart & Safe Florida assert that they have followed guidelines laid out in previous court decisions while drafting their proposal, asking the court to remain consistent in its judgments.

This summer, Florida’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC) spent an entire day discussing the potential financial ramifications of the ballot amendment. Economists are examining various aspects such as potential sales tax revenue, impact on law enforcement, and the possible effects on the existing medical marijuana industry, and have concluded the measure could generate millions of dollars in economic activity.

The stakes are high not just for proponents and opponents of the measure but for the state as a whole, as Florida could join a growing list of states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.


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