TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – Chances voters will get a chance go legalize recreational marijuana this year are slimming.
The group pushing the citizen initiative has filed suit against the Secretary of State over a new law that put restrictions on petition gathers in a last-ditch effort to get more time to collect signatures.
Make it Legal Florida is still 500,000 signatures short of putting the question of legalizing recreational marijuana before voters in November.
All petitions must be validated by Feb. 1.
“It looks very challenging to make those numbers work,” said Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida.
In a last ditched effort the group has filed suit, challenging a law passed last year that requires paid petition gatherers to register with the state.
They’re asking for an additional 30 days to gather and submit petitions.
“They’re the first ones to really have to operate under this new petition gathering law and I think it certainly demonstrates how challenging it’s going to be going forward,” said Sharkey.
The new law has been fraught with issues.
The website to register petition gatherers was offline for weeks. The suit alleges this resulted in multiple delays.
It’s a problem the sponsor of the legislation Rep. James Grant called accidental when we spoke with him in October.
“I don’t think anybody had an intent or even an expectation that some of the antiquated servers and challenges would lead to this problem,” said Grant.
If the initiative doesn’t make it on the ballot this year, there is still a chance it could return in the future.
The petitions collected so far are still valid for two years after the date they were signed.
“There’s certainly been some conversations with legislators and others that they would anticipate that in 2022 this will be back,” said Sharkey.
Lawmakers could also take up the issue of legalizing marijuana at any time, but marijuana advocates say it’s a long shot.
A second group seeking to regulate marijuana like alcohol has already decided to wait for the 2022 ballot.
We reached out to the Department of State for comment on this story, but did not receive a response in time.