TALLAHASSEE — Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who loudly opposed a medical marijuana measure that appeared on the 2014 ballot, is staying on the sidelines this time around.
Bondi said she still opposes the effort to legalize medical marijuana, but the state's top legal officer is remaining silent on whether the Florida Supreme Court should block the latest version of the ballot initiative.
The Supreme Court is currently reviewing the proposed amendment ahead of next year's elections. The court must decide if the ballot initiative is misleading and if it complies with single-subject requirements.
Two years ago, Bondi contended a similar medical marijuana amendment would allow the use of marijuana in "limitless situations" and to allow physicians to approve pot use for nearly any reason.
The Republican attorney general, who led a push to have Florida crack down on pill mills and the illegal use of prescription drugs, tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Supreme Court to toss the amendment off the ballot. That ballot measure narrowly failed to gain the 60 percent threshold needed to pass.
Initially Whitney Ray, a spokesman for Bondi, said because of the pending Supreme Court review, it would not be "appropriate" to comment any further on Bondi's decision to bypass the court this time around.
But then Bondi put out a statement later Monday saying the new amendment could still make it easier for people to get access to marijuana. She also said the loss at the polls in 2014 showed that voters thought it was "bad for Florida."
"Based on the Court's decision in 2014, I have not filed a legal challenge to the current amendment, but my concerns with it are the same," Bondi said.
Bondi's decision, however, still marks a victory for supporters of the medical marijuana measure as they move closer to the deadline to make the ballot. Backers need to collect more than 683,000 signatures by February in order to go before voters in 2016. State records show that nearly 343,000 signatures have been verified so far.
Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, pointed out that Bondi and others who opposed the previous amendment filed over 200 pages in legal briefs then, while this time nothing has been filed.
Pollara also disagreed with Bondi that voters considered it bad for Florida since the 2014 amendment received more votes than she did. The amendment got nearly 58 percent of the vote while Bondi won re-election with 55 percent.
"It's a tough statement to take on its face unless we are to believe the (smaller) majority she received was also a rejection by the voters," Pollara said.