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Gaetz, Weatherford challenging proposed medical marijuana amendment

The battle to get the medical marijuana issue to voters in 2014 has encountered one more challenge.

On Wednesday afternoon, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz submitted a notice of intent to file a brief to the Supreme Court as “interested persons” opposing the ballot initiative. 

The legislative leaders said they weren't addressing the issue of medical marijuana but the language in the ballot proposal, yet Weatherford said the amendment would put "marijuana shops on very street corner" if it passes.

The legislative leaders have joined Attorney General Pam Bondi, who on Oct. 24, sent the proposed medical marijuana constitutional amendment to the Florida Supreme Court and asked for an opinion on the petition’s validity. Bondi noted the conflict with federal law but said there are other reasons to throw it off the ballot.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case Dec. 5. Like Bondi, Weatherford and Gaetz charged the wording is misleading and ambiguous.

In a memo Gaetz wrote to all senators, he stated that “regardless of the subject matter or whether we personally support the proposed petition initiative, efforts to hide the ball or appeal to voters by using language that evokes emotional responses are not appropriate for ballot titles and summaries of proposed constitutional amendments. This is a lesson in checks and balances that the Legislature has, in recent years, often been reminded of the hard way.”

In an email, Weatherford said if cleared by the Florida Supreme Court, legalizing medical marijuana would be “a decision that should be made by voters.”

But he added that “We firmly believe the wording of this amendment is not about legalizing marijuana for serious medical illnesses, but rather creating a path in our constitution for marijuana shops on every street corner. The ballot summary is misleading and the impact of this amendment is far, far greater than John Morgan and his supporters would like the public to know."

Morgan, who is leading the campaign, United for Care -- People United for Medical Marijuana, said the proposed ballot amendment states medical marijuana is only for the most debilitating injuries and illnesses.

“I don’t think there’s anything vague or misleading about the word debilitating,” said Morgan, whose law firm, Morgan & Morgan employs likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist. “Doctors in our state know what debilitating is and what it’s not.”

As for marijuana shops on every corner, Morgan said the state would be determining licensing and regulation of the medical marijuana industry. “I don’t know how that could happen (shops on every corner) unless the state allows it to happen.”

Morgan said the language of the amendment was drafted by constitutional scholar Jon Mills, a former speaker of the Florida House and constitutional law expert at the University of Florida.

Weatherford and Gaetz have had their own challenges when it comes to ballot summaries. Both of them voted along party lines to place an amendment on the 2012 ballot that would have repudiated the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which was passed by the federal government. The so-called "Health Freedom Act" was thrown off the ballot by the Florida Supreme Court in 2011, because it contained a misleading ballot summary. Legislators replaced it with a re-written amendment but voters rejected that.

As with the health care amendment, politics is shrouding the marijuana amendment. Morgan, an Orlando lawyer, employs former Gov. Charlie Crist who is expected to announce his intention to run for governor again, this time as a Democrat, on Monday. If the medical marijuana amendment makes it to the ballot, it is widely expected to draw voters to the polls who may not normally vote in mid-term elections and who could potentially give Crist a turnout advantage over Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Morgan denies the amendment is intended to produce a political result. He said United for Care has collected more than 200,000 petitions -- the group will need 683,149 by Feb. 1 for the amendment to be eligible for consideration in the 2014 general election ballot.

Ben Pollara, United for Care’s campaign manager, said opponents are "trying to play politics with an issue that is really about getting relief to people. If they aren’t challenging the merits, they should have let legislation go through.”

Bondi stated in her challenge sent to the Supreme Court that the amendment sets up a situation where Florida law would conflict with federal law since medical marijuana would be in legal in Florida while federal law prohibits it.

In 2012, opponents to the "Health Freedom Act" raised a similar point, noting the the Florida law would have set up a conflict with the federal health care reform law athat at the time was being challenged by Florida and other states. Bondi supported that amendment, despite the conflict, and the Florida Supreme Court agreed that it could be placed on the ballot. 

While it's too soon to know if the amendment will make it to the ballot, the state’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference has held two workshops on the financial impact of the petition. State law requires that state economists determine the revenue impact of every amendment on the ballot.

There will be a workshop on Thursday, with a final conference planned for Nov. 4.

Chief state economist Amy Baker said the number of Floridians who are likely to use medical marijuana program could range between 175,000 to 450,000 when considering figures in other states where medical marijuana is legal.

Pollara, the United for Care spokesman, said that “in the 20 states plus D.C. where medical marijuana is legal, society has not broken down. It has not caused crime to go up. It hasn’t led to an epidemic of addiction. It has, however, helped people with cancer, AIDS, hepatitis, neurological diseases and injuries, epilepsy, MS and numerous other conditions.”

-- Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.



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Roger Stone

Sadly this Constitutional Amendment is a scam. Pollara is talentless and John Morgan won't live to see election day 2014. Cirrhosis. Very sad.


There is no scam. The GOP legislature is the scam. Give me a break. Tons of states have similar laws. Florida is 70 years behind the nation in everything. MOVE FORWARD.

Jason H Kendall

keep denying this plant created by God that ease the suffering of hundreds of thousands sick Floridians! hey Pam -- way to go by taking 20k from Donald Trump in order to drop the investigation into his Scam University that stole tens of thousands, if not more, from honest Floridians -- you are doing a great job!

Frank Mirabella

What a shame! I am a republican and a person who lost a child to cancer and totally embarrassed that our republican leadership would take this position. It's like they are from another era and have no idea of what people go through in the end of life process.

Informed voter

The real Republican problem with this ammendment is it will turn out voters who will not vote for them. Shame on them for denying very sick people help, so they can elect their corrupt cronies.


If the medical marijuana amendment makes it to the ballot, it is widely expected to draw voters to the polls who may not normally vote in mid-term elections and who could potentially give Crist a turnout advantage over Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Ed Jenkins

As we have seen these drug dealers will take any actions to distribute their narcotics to innocent youths and this is yet another method. We have worked hard to decrease tobacco use and the last thing we need is a more harmful alternative to be pushed on our young by these drug dealers. Anyone involved in this effort needs to be considered accessories to drug dealing and prosecuted.


Hey Ed, marijuana is not a narcotic. It is not addictive and no one has ever died of an over dose. It does have a good effect on those afflicted with nausea due to the sometimes fatal medications prescribed for serious illness. I don't know where you got the idea that this amendment would make it available, much less push it, on our young. Ed, I'll bet you take drugs much more powerful than marijuana every day, prescribed by your doctor, just like marijuana will be, once this amendment passes.

Mr. Ed

Ed the drug dealers are against any form of legalization because it cuts into their market, if you aren't representing them then your just a fool that has no idea what he's talking about.
Tobacco is legal and you yourself say that use among young has declined. Marijuana is illegal and use among young has risen steadily.


Ed you are so misinformed that I almost feel bad for you. What drug dealers are you speaking of? Doctors licensed by the State of Florida? Because those are the people that will be charged with recommending its use. As far as your belief that cannabis is more dangerous then tobacco,do a search on the internet and you will find more then enough proof that you are wrong. Try studying the facts, not what you've been told my law enforcement and the government, who have a vested interest in keeping cannabis illegal.

John C

I have to laugh at all of those people (like Ed Jenkins above) that think they know what they are talking about but in reality they are simply ignorant and refuse to take the time to research the actual facts. You go ED!

Justin Hale

We keep seeing the same bogus arguments thrown out by the ignorant,pseudo moralistic know nothing prohibitionists in every state that eventually accepts re-legalizing cannabis.MerryWanna is a common god given herb that helps sick people and is a safer alternative to alcohol,that's the truth of the matter,people can lie about it all they want but in the end Truth will prevail.

neil rashba

The money against legalization of Marijuana in California is from breweries, distillers, vinyards, alcohol distributors and defense attornies. They should be afraid of legalization as it will cost them profits.

The latest research in California and Washington is that liquor sales to youth is on a decline. Crime is level, not increasing according to all reports available.

It's hard to beat that much money in political campaigns.

Maybe we should just try the same tactics. Buy these politicians support. Hey Pam how much do you get from alcohol distributors?


It seems apparent that those berating opposition to having the language of a law written by a practicing lawyer have another agenda than marihuana for medical purposes.... It seems they want open use of marihuana instead of what they claim the law proposes. Why am I not surprised?

Justin Hale

MerryWanna should be legal for Adults as I said it is a god given herb that some prefer to toxic alcohol,and it is not the business of the government to decide what I can or cannot put in My body. To deny sick and hurting people the choice is downright evil.


The only way to look at this is very simply, democratically. If Bondi, Gaetz, et al. don't support the amendment, then they can cast their votes like the rest of Florida. It is criminal to deny the will of the people and actively seek to disallow a common vote for the citizens of this state. Put it on the ballot. The rest will work itself out.
Ed, you're an idiot.
Dorine, you should not be surprised at all. Marijuana is a wonderful plant with amazing properties. I enjoy it medicinally and recreationally, as do many of my friends and coworkers. If you don't enjoy it, then don't use it. Just keep your beliefs out of my house.

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