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Florida Legislature, Chamber of Commerce oppose adult-use marijuana proposal

They are among among the groups filing briefs opposing a ballot initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana.
Marijuana on display in November at Arbors Wellness, a medical marijuana shop in Ann Arbor, Mich. It is now legal for adults age 21 and over to use marijuana for recreational use in Michigan. A ballot initiative wants to do the same in Florida.
Marijuana on display in November at Arbors Wellness, a medical marijuana shop in Ann Arbor, Mich. It is now legal for adults age 21 and over to use marijuana for recreational use in Michigan. A ballot initiative wants to do the same in Florida. [ DAVID EGGERT | Associated Press ]
Published Jan. 7, 2020
Updated Jan. 7, 2020

In a deluge of briefs filed Monday night, the Florida House, Senate, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and a number of other groups came out in opposition to a ballot initiative to let voters decide to allow adult use marijuana in 2020, according to briefs filed with the state Supreme Court.

The ballot initiative, dubbed Make it Legal Florida, is backed primarily by medical marijuana companies Surterra and MedMen, and would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana for “personal use.” The campaign is chaired by former MedMen lobbyist Nick Hansen.

Related: In final push, petitions to legalize marijuana and ban assault weapons hit mailboxes

In a 15-page brief, the Florida House of Representatives argues that the ballot language misleads voters by suggesting the amendment would “permit” adults to possess, use and purchase marijuana for personal use. The House argues that the hypothetical amendment could not, in fact, “permit” this activity since marijuana use is still a federal crime.

Attorney General Ashley Moody used similar language in her initial brief.

In its brief, the Florida Senate also claimed that the language permits an act that is “federally illegal” and also said the proposal violates the single subject rule, which requires citizens to vote “on singular changes.” The Senate argues that the language tries to do two things: allow personal use of marijuana and also authorize commercial sales.

The Senate also claims that the proposal is attempting to rewrite state policy “to benefit a particular special interest group,” citing a Miami Herald article that reported over 99.99% of the money raised for the campaign comes from medical marijuana companies Surterra Holdings and MedMen.

The Senate’s last argument against the proposal is that it bestows implementation authority to the state Department of Health, therefore taking away power from the Legislature to regulate the recreational use of marijuana.

Related: Florida cannabis had a big year. What’s coming in 2020?

In a slightly longer, 21-page brief, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Floridians Against Recreational Marijuana, Save Our Society from Drugs and National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance made similar arguments, urging the Supreme Court to reject the language.

The groups, like the Florida House and Moody, said the ballot summary “falsely implies” that use of marijuana is legal under federal law. The groups also argue that the language doesn’t define clearly enough the proposed restriction on marijuana use in “defined public places.”

The Make it Legal Florida campaign has until Feb. 1 to validate 766,200 signatures to make it into the 2020 ballot. It currently has 251,312.

Related: Florida pot group sues state over new petition rules