Initiatives to provide a constitutional right to abortion and legalize marijuana qualify for the ballot in Florida pending court review

In November, voters in Florida will decide on two citizen-initiated ballot measures—Amendment 3 and Amendment 4—pending the state supreme court’s review. Amendment 3 would legalize marijuana, and Amendment 4 would provide a state constitutional right for abortion. To qualify for the ballot, 891,523 valid signatures were required for each initiative.

Florida Amendment 3

Amendment 3, sponsored by Smart and Safe Florida, would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 years old and older. Individuals would be allowed to possess up to three ounces of marijuana (about 85 grams), with up to five grams in the form of concentrate. Existing Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers would be authorized under the initiative to sell marijuana to adults for personal use. The Florida State Legislature could provide by state law for the licensure of entities other than existing Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers to cultivate and sell marijuana products.

Smart and Safe Florida submitted 1,033,770 valid signatures for the initiative, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

In Florida, constitutional amendments require a 60% vote to pass. This requirement was added to the state constitution through voter approval of Amendment 3 in 2006. Since then, nine constitutional amendments (including Amendment 2 of 2014, designed to legalize medical marijuana) received a majority of votes in favor but failed to reach the 60% threshold and were therefore defeated.

Due to the 60% supermajority requirement for approval, Amendment 2 of 2014 was defeated with 57.62% of voters in favor and 42.38% opposed. A medical marijuana initiative, also known as Amendment 2, was approved in 2016 by a vote of 71.32% in favor and 28.68% opposed.

As of Feb. 4, 2024, 24 states have legalized marijuana. Thirteen did so through a ballot initiative.

Florida Amendment 4

Amendment 4, sponsored by Floridians Protecting Freedom, would provide a state constitutional right to abortion before fetal viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider. The initiative would not change the state legislature’s authority to enact a law requiring the parents of a minor to be notified if their child is seeking an abortion, with exceptions that can be attained through a judicial waiver. Floridians Protecting Freedom submitted 996,512 valid signatures for the initiative.

In 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill, known as the Heartbeat Protection Act, designed to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable at around six weeks. The law is set to take effect if the Florida Supreme Court rules that a previous bill signed by DeSantis in 2022 creating a 15-week abortion ban is constitutional. The 15-week abortion ban law has remained in effect pending the state supreme court ruling. Before this law took effect in 2022, abortions were legal in Florida until 24 weeks. In 2012, voters rejected an amendment limiting public funds for abortions, and in 2004, they approved parental notification for minors seeking abortions.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overruled Roe v. Wade, seven abortion measures have appeared on statewide ballots. In 2022, there were six ballot measures addressing abortion — the most on record for a single year. Ballot measures related to abortion have been proposed in 10 other states targeting the 2024 ballot.

In November 2023, voters in Ohio approved an initiative establishing a state constitutional right to abortion as well as an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. Voters approved both measures with 57% of voters in favor.

Florida Supreme Court

In Florida, the attorney general is required to petition the Florida Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on a measure’s compliance with the single-subject rule, the appropriateness of the title and summary, and whether or not the measure “is facially invalid” under the United States Constitution. Both of the initiatives are being challenged in the state supreme court with plaintiffs, including Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), alleging that the measures are unconstitutional or have misleading ballot language. Florida is the only state where a state supreme court must review the language during or after the signature drive.

The Florida State Legislature referred two constitutional amendments to the 2024 ballot during its 2023 legislative session. Amendment 1 would make school board elections partisan. Amendment 2 would provide a constitutional right to hunt and fish.

In Florida, constitutional amendments require a 60% supermajority vote for approval.

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