Florida Supreme Court hears arguments over recreational marijuana amendment

Ashley Moody seeks to ash pot initiative

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday about an initiative to put recreational marijuana on the ballot in 2024.

The proposed amendment calls for adults 21 and older to be able to buy up to 3 ounces of marijuana for non-medical personal use. Medical cannabis dispensaries could cultivate, sell and distribute, but there would be no provisions for growing at home or otherwise.

The measure is sponsored by the group Smart & Safe Florida and has gained more than 1 million valid signatures, enough to appear on the November 2024 ballot, but the push to make that happen comes amid resistance from Ashley Moody, Florida’s attorney general.

In June, Moody filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court arguing the proposed ballot should be invalidated because its language is misleading to voters in that it does not clearly state recreational marijuana would still be illegal at the federal level even if deemed legal in the state. She also said that the ballot summary language glosses over how the amendment language bans the possession of more than 3 ounces of marijuana and would even prevent the Legislature from regulating greater amounts.

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“If the amendment passed, not even the Legislature would be able to clear the way for possession of greater amounts of marijuana. Were voters warned that the amendment would restrict marijuana possession in this way — effectively banning most or all marijuana cultivation — they might reconsider their support for the initiative,” Moody wrote.

In response to Moody’s petition, attorneys for Smart & Safe Florida filed a brief to say that the group has followed the roadmap established by the Court for past sponsors of marijuana-related initiatives, also denying the Florida attorney general’s claim that the Legislature wouldn’t be able to hash out possession over 3 ounces.

“This Court approved the language for a reason: It unambiguously informs voters that the amendment does not alter federal law or immunize violations of federal law. And SSF relied on this Court’s clear guidance in undertaking the costly campaign to put the issue on the ballot,” the Smart & Safe Florida brief reads.

Medical marijuana was made legal in Florida after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016. In the years since, there’s been a push from Democratic lawmakers in Tallahassee to legalize recreational marijuana.

In 2021, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a proposal that would have let voters decide on recreational use.

The majority opinion, filed by Chief Justice Charles Canady, said that the measure would “Mislead voters into believing that the recreational use of marijuana in Florida will be free of any repercussions, criminal or otherwise.”

On Wednesday, Canady was one of the justices questioning the arguments from opponents of the abortion amendment.

“I don’t know how a voter, when it says, ‘does not immunize violations of federal law,’ how a voter could be confused by that. I’m baffled by the argument,” Canady said.

Read the proposed amendment below:

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About the Authors:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.