The Florida-based advocacy group Smart & Safe Florida (SSF) has been hard at work trying to get a cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot for 2024. The most recent developments include new briefs filed with the Florida Supreme Court.
On July 19, Smart & Safe Florida, alongside the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida and Cato Institute, filed a new brief with the Florida Supreme Court in response to Attorney General Ashley Moody who is challenging the initiative. The Supreme Court is labeling this as a “high profile case.”
In the brief, SSF states that the “roadmap” for previous cannabis ballot initiatives has been guiding cannabis reform, but that Moody is attempting to alter that process. “In the past several years, this Court has established a ‘roadmap’ for sponsors of marijuana-related ballot initiatives. In drafting the Initiative, SSF followed that clear roadmap. But the Attorney General and other opponents now argue that this court should abruptly redraw the map,” the brief stated. “The Attorney General’s lead argument is that this court should discard three of its recent precedents—precedents that it expressly encouraged ballot sponsors to use as blueprints for drafting future initiatives.”
In attempting to “redraw” this initiative map, SSF claims that Moody is suggesting that the Supreme Court “…abandon the deferential standard of review that it has consistently applied to ballot initiatives for decades, essentially arguing that this Court committed legal error in dozens of decisions, and that it should invent a new, more lenient standard for discarding precedent.”
SSF is asking the Supreme Court to “reject these misguided efforts to jettison established legal rules in service of a thinly veiled policy agenda,” and to confirm that SSF’s initiative “satisfies the legal requirements to be placed on the ballot.”
The Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida said that Moody’s argument is “misleading because it fails to disclose that there may be a significant period in which the marijuana industry will be unregulated in the production of marijuana for non-medical personal use by adults, ignores the current regulatory scheme that would remain in place, is speculative, and is belied by Florida’s history of robustly regulating marijuana.” The organization asserts that the ballot title and summary are not misleading, and should be approved.
The Cato Institute’s brief argues that the ballot initiative does not violate the state’s single subject rule for ballot initiatives.
In order for SSF’s ballot to fully qualify, it will need to submit 891,589 valid signatures. In March, SSF submitted 420,000 signatures toward the initiative’s goal to qualify for the ballot, but only 222,881 signatures were required to prompt a Florida Supreme Court review of the ballot summary text in order to move forward.
Two months later in May, Moody submitted her opinion that the ballot doesn’t meet the requirements of the single subject rule. “We very much look forward to [Moody’s] analysis but more importantly to both written and oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court and a positive ruling from that court,” SSF said at the time. “As an aside, it is important to note that the opinion of the Attorney General is not binding and that this matter will be decided after both sides have had their say before the Florida Supreme Court.”
By June, Moody officially challenged the initiative with a legal opinion that the ballot title and summary is “incorrect and misleading” because cannabis is still illegal under federal law. Previously, Moody also called a ballot initiative from 2021 “misleading” and the Florida Supreme Court rejected the measure.
Cannabis company Trulieve has granted a total of $39.05 million toward getting a legalization initiative onto the ballot in 2024.
If the initiative is allowed to proceed to the ballot and is approved by voters, it would allow currently operating medical cannabis businesses to sell adult-use cannabis, but also allow state legislators to increase the number of dispensaries. For residents, it would allow adults to possess up to three ounces of flower and up to five grams of concentrates, but in its current form does not allow home cultivation and does not mention anything in regards to cannabis conviction expungement or social equity licensing.