Recreational marijuana amendments may not make it onto next year’s ballot

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – Legalizing recreational marijuana has growing support, but several pro-legalization groups are running out of time to get the issue on next year’s ballot in Florida.

Sensible Florida, which runs the website RegulateFlorida.com and is sometimes identified by that name, is one of three groups with proposed Florida constitutional amendments on marijuana.

Amendments require 766,200 signatures by February 1 to be eligible for the 2020 ballot. There are also numerical thresholds in certain counties that must be met.

Sensible Florida has 92,570 so far according to the Division of Elections website — enough to warrant a review of the amendment by the state supreme court.

Their petition is in every Trulieve store, but they still have a long way to go.

“We are getting signatures on a regular and consistent basis,” said Michael Minardi, a criminal defense attorney who is the campaign manager for Sensible Florida’s amendment effort. “We’re gonna keep pushing until the fat lady sings and try to get this done. Because we believe that the people of Florida want it. Recent polls show 63, 65, 67 percent [support].”

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is challenging Sensible Florida’s amendment language–which is 10 pages long–because she believes it’s too complicated for voters to understand in a short ballot summary.

Minardi says the idea is simple, and voters will understand it perfectly. It’s the legislature he has to worry about.

“The reason why our amendment is so long is because we don’t trust our legislature,” Minardi said. “So we put the rules and regulations in there that they have to abide by to issue licenses specifically, because that’s one of the biggest problems that we have. That takes up almost six pages of the amendment. That’s the bulk of it.”

Minardi’s distrust is warranted. The Florida legislature has a long history of subverting the will of voters, and has already done so on this issue specifically.

During former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, legislators put additional requirements on the medical marijuana amendment that changed its meaning from the ballot measure 71% of voters approved.

What resulted is an unfair licensing process that keeps getting shot down in court, higher prices, limited supply, and the unavailability of smokable marijuana until earlier this year.

Minardi says the big roadblock to getting more signatures is the volunteers it takes to do it. Grassroots efforts can only mobilize so many people before paid petition collectors come in.

“We do believe we still have the ability to get this done, but we do need $2.5 million to do so,” Minardi said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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