The Florida Supreme Court focused its attention Thursday on the clarity of the 74 words voters could be reading next November should the initiative to legalize medical marijuana make it onto the state’s 2014 general election ballot.
According to a Reuters report on the hour-long session, presentations were made by former Florida House Speaker Jon Mills in defense of the proposed amendment, while state Solicitor General Allen Winsor’s presentation, made on behalf of state Attorney General Pam Bondi, called the amendment’s language “deceptive.”
Winsor argued that the initiative’s ballot summary could mislead voters because it refers to “debilitating diseases” for which medical marijuana could be prescribed as treatment rather than “debilitating conditions” as mentioned in the title.
“You don’t even have to have a disease to get marijuana, the way this amendment is worded,” Winsor said.
In addition to calling the initiative’s wording “deceptive,” the Solicitor General said the proposed amendment’s language implies Florida’s proposed authorization of medical marijuana use would somehow “trump federal law.”
Mills, who helped craft the amendment, argued that the average voter recognizes that a state cannot authorize a violation of federal law and argued that the title and summary of the initiative “does not have to be perfect.”
The face of the campaign to legalize medical marijuana was also in attendance for the session and had some questions for critics of the initiative once the state’s highest court was recessed.
“What is a disease, what is a condition, what is a sickness,” asked John Morgan, who sat through but did not participate in the day’s arguments. “If that’s going to the issue that’s going to deny compassion to all these people, so be it.”
To date, Morgan has reportedly funneled more than $1 million into United For Care’s campaign, with much of the funding going to paid petition collectors who have been blanketing the state in recent months. Although more than 82 percent of Floridians support the cause according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, People United for Medical Marijuana must collect 683,159 certified voter signatures for the initiative to qualify for next November’s general election ballot.
In a letter on the group’s website, campaign manager Ben Pollara expressed confidence that the court will rule in United For Care’s favor; however, Pollara added that it could come down to the wire when it comes to collecting the remaining necessary signatures.
“While we have confidence that the court will rule in our favor, we can’t wait for its decision,” Pollara said. “We have to collect all of the petitions we need within the next 30 days.”