After coming two percentage points of having medical marijuana legalized in last November's election, United for Care regrouped and came charging out of the gate with renewed energy to get medicinal cannabis back onto the ballot for the 2016 election. It needed to collect 68,317 valid signatures for a Supreme Court review and 683,179 validated petitions to get on the 2016 ballot.
The advocacy group announced Wednesday that it's sending the 100,000 petitions to the Supervisor of Election offices in order to get a Supreme Court review.
The Supervisor of Elections will then have 30 days to verify that a petition is valid. Once that's done, the Supreme Court will schedule a review.
Per state law, once a group wants to get an initiative onto a ballot, the Florida Supreme Court must review the language to make sure it's clear and concise. Moreover, the ballot must pertain to only one subject and issue, making it clear enough for voters to understand what exactly they're voting Yes or No on.
"The court is looking to see that the language on the ballot is clear," Vanessa Moffatt, director of operations at Florida for Care, tells New Times. "They want to make sure the issue is clear enough for the voter and that there's nothing on the ballot that violates other state laws."
Moffatt explains the reason for such a big number of signatures is to give the group enough leeway to have the required 68,317. In some cases, people who sign petitions aren't registered Florida voters. Other snags might keep a signature from being validated. So the push was to get to 100,000 to make the difference negligible.
The Florida Supreme Court voted 4-3 the last time United for Care looked to get on the ballot for the 2014 election.
“This is a massive head start over the previous campaign — which started late. If we can sustain this pace, we should ensure our place on the ballot before the holidays,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager, via a news release Wednesday.
United for Care, which has been powered by a grass-roots operation and funded mostly by Orlando-based attorney John Morgan — who put in $2.8 million of his own money to help the cause — has been calling on medical marijuana advocates to sign the petition and spread the word.
Back in May, Morgan raised the stakes and promised to match every dollar donated to United for Care to get the medical marijuana initiative back on the ballot in 2016. In June, Morgan came through with that promise and wrote the group a $150,000 check.
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Morgan's father and brother both suffered from cancer and injuries and found relief in marijuana for medicinal purposes. His brother, Tim, suffered a spinal injury. Confined to a wheelchair and dealing with the many physical pains and ailments that come with his impairment, Tim uses medical cannabis for relief.
The November election saw the initiative fall two percentage points short of passing. While it was a defeat, the group was encouraged by the turnout. More people voted for the legalization of medical marijuana than for Rick Scott's reelection.
“This early accomplishment comes as a direct result of the dedicated volunteers we have and the generous donors large and small helping to fund our efforts,” said Pollara.
United for Care expects to have a review scheduled sometime in mid-August. You can download the petition here.