Florida Attorney General's Response to United for Care's Medical Marijuana Amendment

Posted on December 04, 2013 by Jeffrey Feiler

Section 15.21 of the Florida Statutes provides that the Secretary of State shall submit an initiative petition to the Attorney General when the sponsoring political committee has obtained ten (10) percent of the signatures in one-fourth of the Congressional Districts, as required by section 3, Article XI of the Florida Constitution, and has met registration and submission requirements.

Section 16.061 of the Florida Statutes provides that the Attorney General must then petition the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion regarding the compliance of the text of the proposed Amendment with the State Constitution, as well as its ballot title and substance with section 101.161 of the Florida Statutes.

In her petition to the Supreme Court, Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi, is of the opinion that United for Care, the proposed Amendment's sponsor, has presented its proposal in a way that does not accurately portray the true meaning and ramifications of the Amendment in the Amendment's Summary. Bondi claims the sponsor has obscured the most fundamental issue underlying its proposal, specifically the nature and scope of marijuana use this Amendment would allow. The Attorney General fears that if the Amendment passes, Florida Law would allow marijuana in limitless situations, and that any physician could approve medical marijuana to any person, and for any reason so long as the physician held the opinion that utilizing medical marijuana for the patient's treatment would outweigh its risks.

Pam Bondi argues that, according to the ballot Summary, Florida medical marijuana distribution would be limited to only those with debilitating diseases. Bondi goes on to argue that the amendment itself does not limit use to individuals with debilitating diseases because it includes other provisions allowing a licensed physician to prescribe medical marijuana if, in their professional opinion, the benefits of medical marijuana treatment outweigh the potential health risks for the patient.

In addition to not believing the ballot Summary accurately illustrates the potential scope of the actual ballot language, the Attorney General also believes that the ballot title is improper because it suggests a more restrictive scope than the Amendment delivers. She states that the title, "Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions," wrongly indicates the specific conditions determined. The term "certain," she argues, is understood to mean fixed, definite, or settled.

In her petition, the Attorney General goes on to take issue with a licensed physician's role in determining the presence of a debilitating disease. First, she argues that the amendment defines "physician" only as a "physician who is licensed in Florida," without specifying whether the term is limited to medical doctors or includes chiropractors, podiatrists, or others who are considered physicians under some Florida Laws.

The Amendment also purports to award immunity to physicians from consequences of negligently authorizing marijuana. Pam Bondi argues that neither the ballot title or language notifies voters that the Amendment frees physicians from existing requirements regarding the standard of care or that the current cause of action for medical negligence will be unavailable for the negligent prescription of marijuana.

The Attorney General also argues that the ballot summary leads voters to believe that there is no conflict with Federal law. She claims that the ballot summary's first words are that the Amendment "[a]llows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases," but what the Amendment allows is actually forbidden under Federal law. The summary raises the topic cryptically stating that the Amendment "[d]oes not authorize violations of federal law." She believes the sponsor used this language as a wording technique rather than clearly explaining that marijuana is still criminal under Federal law.

*This article quotes freely from the Florida Attorney General's October 24, 2013 letter to the Florida Supreme Court regarding United for Care's proposed constitutional Amendment to legalize medical marijuana in the State of Florida.

  • Broward, Florida
  • Miami-Dade, Florida
  • Palm Beach, Florida