Florida Attorney General's Response to the Proposed Medical Marijuana Amendment
Posted on December 02, 2013 by Jeffrey FeilerOn December 5, 2013, the Florida Supreme Court will listen to arguments on United for Care's proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in the State of Florida. United for Care, a Florida-based non-profit organization, acquired the 68,300 signatures necessary for the Florida Supreme Court to review the language of the proposed amendment. If the Florida Supreme Court approves the language and United for Care gathers 683,000 signatures by February 1, 2014, the proposed amendment will be placed on the November 2014 ballot.
Florida law states that the Attorney General shall, within 30 days after receipt of a proposed revision to the State Constitution, petition the Florida Supreme Court requesting an advisory opinion regarding the compliance of the text of the proposed amendment. In response to United for Care gathering the signatures to initiate Florida Supreme Court review, Pam Bondi, Florida's Attorney General, petitioned the Court for an opinion regarding the amendment's validity. In her petition, the Attorney General takes a stand against the amendment and criticizes its language and purpose.
Pam Bondi's first concern about the amendment is her belief that the ballot title and ballot summary mislead voters regarding the amendment's true scope. In Roberts v. Doyle, the Florida Supreme Court held that a ballot title and summary must "accurately describe the scope of the amendment." Bondi argues that the ballot summary states medical marijuana would only be available to patients with debilitating diseases. The amendment elaborates on the summary's language by enumerating certain diseases that warrant the legal use of medical marijuana. The amendment's language does, however, allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for any condition if they believe the benefit of medical marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risk for the patient.
The relevant clause of the ballot summary states that the amendment, "[A]llows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician." Bondi fears that this sentence misleads voters because it does not specifically state that a doctor could prescribe medical marijuana for any condition. The actual ballot does list a number of debilitating diseases, and has a provision allowing a doctor to use his professional judgment in prescribing medical marijuana for other unlisted debilitating diseases or conditions. Bondi's concern appears to be unfounded, for both the ballot summary and ballot language appear to be in harmony.
Bondi's next argument is that the ballot summary language does not tell voters that medical marijuana would still be illegal under Federal Law. The ballot summary states that the amendment "[D]oes not authorize violations of federal law." She uses semantic gymnastics to argue that the language is unclear. The summary, however, clearly states that the amendment "[A]pplies only to Florida law[,]" and that it, "Does not authorize violations of federal law, or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana."
Bondi's opposition to the new amendment goes against the general opinion of Florida voters and modern medical science. Unfortunately, the concerns which the Attorney General raises disregard the purpose of the amendment, which is to allow access of medical marijuana to qualified patients. Her concerns also ignore the fact that in 2013, 70% of Florida residents surveyed are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.