The Florida Supreme Court blocks marijuana legalization initiative from 2022 ballot

On April 22, 2021, the Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that a marijuana legalization initiative backed by Make It Legal Florida could not appear on the 2022 ballot. The court wrote, “A constitutional amendment cannot unequivocally ‘permit’ or authorize conduct that is criminalized under federal law. And a ballot summary suggesting otherwise is affirmatively misleading.” Justices Jorge Labarga and Alan Lawson dissented. Lawson said, “Because the ballot summary in this case complies with the constitutional and statutory requirements by which we are to judge ballot summaries, I would apply our precedent and approve this measure for placement on the ballot.”

The measure would have added a section to the Florida Constitution that legalized the personal possession, use, and purchase of 2.5 ounces of marijuana and allowed Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers to sell marijuana for personal use to adults 21 years or older.

Make It Legal Florida filed the initiative in September 2019 targeting the 2020 ballot. Proponents submitted 76,632 valid signatures on November 19, 2019, thereby qualifying for a ballot language review by the Florida Supreme Court. On January 13, 2020, Make it Legal Florida announced that it would attempt to qualify the measure for the 2022 ballot rather than the 2020 ballot.

To place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, proponents must collect signatures equal to 8% of the total number of votes cast in the last presidential election. In 2020, this number was 766,200, with 76,632 required for a ballot language review. Based on the 2020 elections, the requirements increased to 891,589, with 89,159 required for a ballot language review. Signatures must be verified by February 1, 2022, to qualify for the November 2022 ballot.

Make it Legal Florida had submitted 556,049 valid signatures according to the Division Elections Website as of April 22, 2021.

Fourteen initiative campaigns are actively circulating targeting the 2022 ballot according to the Division of Elections website as of April 22, 2021. No campaigns besides the marijuana legalization initiative had yet collected enough signatures to qualify for a ballot language review.

On April 8, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed Senate Bill 1794, which, among other things, required the Florida Supreme Court to review whether a proposed amendment is “facially invalid under the United States Constitution” in addition to existing requirements for reviewing the ballot title and reviewing the initiative for compliance with the state’s single-subject rule. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), the Florida House and Senate, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce filed briefs with the state supreme court arguing that the marijuana legalization measure is invalid because it violates federal law. The Florida Supreme Court, however, declined to rule on the issue of whether the measure is valid under the US Constitution under SB 1794 because it blocked the measure based on the ballot summary.

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