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Florida attorney general comes out against recreational marijuana amendment

It’s the third constitutional amendment Attorney General Ashley Moody has come out against this year.
Attorney General Ashley Moody. [BRONTE WITTPENN   |   Times] ["BRONTE WITTPENN  | TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Attorney General Ashley Moody. [BRONTE WITTPENN | Times] ["BRONTE WITTPENN | TIMES" | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Sep. 11, 2019

A proposed constitutional amendment allowing recreational marijuana should not go before voters, Attorney General Ashley Moody announced on Wednesday.

Why? It’s simply too long.

At 10 single-spaced pages, the proposed amendment is longer than Article I of Florida’s constitution, and longer than the previous 30 constitutional amendments combined, she said in a statement.

“There is no way 10 pages of the law can be summarized clearly in 75 words or less,” Moody said. “That is why I will ask the Florida Supreme Court to seriously consider the sheer length and ambiguous language chosen by the sponsor."

The amendment is called “Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol to Establish Age, Licensing, and Other Restrictions.”

It would limit recreational marijuana use to people 21 and older, but it allows growing marijuana as well. The amendment also requires the state to adopt a new licensing structure for marijuana growing, manufacturing, testing and selling, and it allows local governments to regulate if the state “fails to timely act.”

The group behind it, Regulate Florida, is chaired by Tampa attorney Michael Minardi, and it has raised only $180,000 since 2015.

It’s one of two amendments legalizing recreational marijuana that have a chance to go before voters in 2020.

The other campaign is both better funded than Regulate Florida and more narrow — and it’s backed by the medical marijuana industry.

The new effort, filed just three weeks ago, hopes to amend the constitution to allow adults 21 or older to have, use, purchase and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for “personal use” and gives existing medical marijuana treatment centers in the state the exclusive right to sell it.

The Make it Legal Florida proposal is chaired by Nick Hansen, a lobbyist for a California-based medical marijuana chain, MedMen, and former adviser to Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes, of St. Petersburg.

MedMen and Atlanta-based marijuana giant Surterra — both of which operate in Florida — are behind the nearly $1.2 million raised so far in the last 30 days.

But only Minardi’s amendment has enough signatures so far to trigger an automatic review by the Florida Supreme Court.

The court could toss out the proposed amendment if they decide it’s too vague or deals with more than one subject.

Even if the court approves it, the group would have to gather more than 766,000 valid signatures before voters see it. Currently, it has 89,061 valid signatures, according to the Florida Secretary of State’s website.

Moody’s predecessor, former Attorney General Pam Bondi, rarely came out against constitutional amendments.

But it’s the third proposed amendment to the constitution that Moody has come out against this year, a product, in part, of the number of left-leaning amendments that groups are hoping to get before voters on the 2020 ballot.

She called a proposed amendment to ban assault weapons “deceitful and misleading,” and she called a proposed “energy choice” amendment a veiled attempt to “eliminate” the state’s investor-owned utilities.

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