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Florida Attorney General, Lawmakers Levy Criticism Against Recreational Pot Plan

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody - flanked on both sides by Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco - led a discussion in Tampa Wednesday about mental health and the criminal justice system.
Daylina Miller
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Attorney General Ashley Moody and the state House and Senate want the Florida Supreme Court to reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow recreational marijuana use, arguing the measure wouldn’t fully inform voters that pot remains illegal under federal law. 

Lawyers for Moody, the House and the Senate filed briefs late Monday contending that the proposal’s wording would be misleading if it goes on the ballot.

“Unlike previous citizen initiatives approved by this court for ballot placement, the Adult Use of Marijuana (proposal) summary does not caution voters that the effects of the amendment would be limited to ‘state law,’ or inform voters that marijuana would remain illegal under federal law,” said a 12-page brief filed by Moody’s office. “Because the amendment would not ‘permit’ recreational marijuana use, the ballot summary is affirmatively misleading, and the initiative should be kept off the ballot.”

The briefs were filed as the political committee Make It Legal Florida tries to get the proposed amendment on the November ballot. The proposal, in part, would allow people 21 or older to “possess, use, purchase, display, and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and marijuana accessories for personal use for any reason.”

The Supreme Court is not supposed to consider the merits of proposed constitutional amendments but must sign off on ballot titles and summaries --- the wording that voters see when they go to the polls. Justices look at issues such as whether the wording would be misleading.

Make It Legal Florida is required to file a brief at the Supreme Court by Jan. 16. But it filed a lawsuit last week in Leon County circuit court on a separate issue of trying to get a deadline extended for submitting petition signatures.

The state must receive at least 766,200 valid petition signatures by a Feb. 1 deadline for the measure to go on the ballot. But Make It Legal Florida is seeking more time because it contends that a petition-gathering law passed year by the Legislature is unconstitutional and that problems with a Department of State database hampered petition efforts.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, the state had tallied 251,380 petition signatures for the measure.

Along with facing opposition from Moody and legislative leaders, Make It Legal Florida is also battling groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which filed a brief Monday at the Supreme Court and is seeking to intervene in the Leon County case. In addition to opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana, the business group has long sought to make it harder to pass constitutional amendments.

The Supreme Court also is considering the wording of another proposed constitutional amendment aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana. But backers of that proposal have already acknowledged they will not submit enough signatures to get on this fall’s ballot.