Update: Dec. 6, 8:20 a.m. – Yesterday the Florida Supreme Court began hearing arguments for and against a proposed medical marijuana ballot initiative. Opponents say the language is too vague and would create a free for all for people seeking to use cannabis legally but don’t have a valid medical condition.
The Justices all seemed to take that argument the most seriously, with several agreeing at least in discussion that the measure is written too broadly.
“The (ballot) summary is potentially misleading if this is designed to be something to take for headaches or stress,” Justice Barbara Pariente said at the hearing.
“Can a student go to the doctor and say ‘I’m real stressed out,’ and can the doctor prescribe marijuana?” asked Chief Justice Ricky Polston.
“It depends on what a physician believes,” Justice Charles Canady said. “Not a reasonable physician, any physician that believes the benefits outweigh the risks. That’s a subjective standard.”
But supporters say the bill was written in such a way that it leaves the interpretation up to doctors who should have the ability to recommend cannabis for serious conditions not included in the list. Supporters also say that language protecting doctors from medical malpractice is also needed.
“Look, everybody here knows that one day medical marijuana is going to be legal in Florida,” said John Morgan, a Florida attorney financially backing the campaign “We all know that. Tell me somebody that doesn’t know that.”
Deliberation continues today.
Original story: 12/5 10:20 a.m. – The Florida Supreme Court today will decide whether a proposed medical marijuana ballot initiative can move forward after the state attorney general challenged the language last month.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says that the language of the measure (which is restricted to only 90 words per Florida law) does not accurately reflect language that is in the six-page proposed amendment. She says that alone disqualifies the bill because it is misleading to voters.
The petition currently says that patients could qualify for medical cannabis for conditions that include cancer, glaucoma, Parkinsons and “other conditions” if a physician says the patient could benefit from it. Supporters say that the language of the bill itself makes it clear that the “other conditions” that are relatively equal in medical severity to AIDS, HIV, Lou Gherig’s disease and Crohn’s. The petition, filed by People for United Medical Marijuana, currently has 500,000 signatures according to the group.
But Bondi didn’t stop with just that argument. She says that because the bill would charge multiple state agencies with new regulations that it violates state laws requiring ballot measures to be about a single subject only.
John Mills, attorney for People United, says the AG’s complaints are based on twisting the facts and misleading voters. He says its part of the same anti-medical marijuana push that has kept proposed laws from being discussed for the last three years in the state legislature.
If the state Supreme Court agrees with Bondi, People for United Medical Marijuana would have to regroup and start from the beginning next year. If the state Supreme Court tells her she’s full of it and lets the ballot measure move forward, they’ll have to collect 683,149 votes by Feb. 1. It would then have to get 60 percent voter approval to pass.
That’s a big hurdle, but one that might not be impossible. Recent polling has shown that as many as 82 percent of Florida voters would approve of medical cannabis laws.
And with support like that, it might just draw enough voters to the polls. Which brings up an even larger issue: approving the bill could also could have farther-reaching political meanings, namely on the upcoming off-year election. Some have speculated that a medical marijuana bill would bring out more Democrat votes overall, which probably scares the crap out of the Republican stronghold in the state that includes (you guessed it) Pam Bondi herself.
We’ll update you tomorrow on the results.