By: James Davis
Over the past few years, the nationwide trend has been to decriminalize possession of marijuana. Some states, such as Colorado and Oregon, have voted to decriminalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Others—like California, Texas, Vermont, Maryland, and fourteen others—do not prosecute those found in possession of marijuana if they are using it for medicinal purposes. Notice that Florida is on neither list.
In order for Floridians to legalize medicinal marijuana, the motion could go through the same legislative process as most other bills in order to become a law. This is how the majority of the twenty states that do not criminalize medicinal marijuana possession got those laws into place.
There is, however, an equally effective way to legalize medicinal marijuana in Florida. Floridians could use what is called an “Initiative Petition.” The initiative petition, if successful, results in a state-wide vote on the proposed constitutional amendment. In effect, it is a citizen-made amendment to the Florida constitution. It does not require the approval of elected representatives, and requires only that a sufficient number of Floridians sign a petition.
Here’s how it works. In order for an initiative petition to make it on the ballot several steps need to be taken, many of which are procedural, and beyond the scope of this post. However, the bottom line is that supporters of the initiative petition will need to register as a political committee and collect signatures of those who support the proposed constitutional amendment. The amount of signatures required varies per year; but the requirement is that the committee get at least 10% of the number of voters in the last election. In addition, the signatures need to come from at least half of the counties in Florida.
Current Effort on Medical Marijuana
Some work is already underway on the petition front. In fact, a group leading the effort suggests that it has already collected enough signatures for a measure to be added to the state’s 2014 ballot which would legalize medical marijuana. According to recent reports the group already has 110,000 signatures, more than 40,000 over the constitutionally required number of roughly 68,000.
Right now the matter is being review by the Florida Supreme Court to verify the specific language in the petition. Essentially the court is checking the language of the proposed amendment to ensure that it is not misleading or covers more than one subject. So long as it is not flagged by the Supreme Court and enough signatures are verified, it may be put to voters statewide next year. The measure will then need 60% support to pass. Recent polls suggest that voters currently support the measure roughly 70%-30%.
Until either Florida’s legislators get with it and enact a medical marijuana law, or the citizens of Florida are able to enact a constitutional amendment through the initiative-petition process, marijuana remains illegal in Florida.
Just because other states have lightened up on marijuana users doesn’t mean sentences in Florida are lessened. If you have been charged with possession of marijuana, you may face a serious sentence. The best thing to do is contact an experience, passionate attorney who will fight for your rights. Contact Attorney James Davis.