Back in July, medical marijuana advocates United for Care shipped more than 100,000 petitions to Florida Supervisors of Elections offices for Supreme Court review. Once the Supervisor of Elections verifies that petitions are valid, the Supreme Court can then schedule a review so the initiative can start to make its way to the ballot.
And the push is on.
As of Thursday, United for Care says that more than 43,259 have been validated, according to its website counter. The group needs an additional 639,890 validated to get on the ballot and roughly 28,154 to trigger the Supreme Court review.
"The court is looking to see that the language on the ballot is clear," Vanessa Moffatt, director of operations at Florida for Care, said to 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 says 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 has been to get to 100,000 to make the difference negligible.
In 2014, the Florida Supreme Court voted 4-3 for United for Care to get the medical marijuana initiative on the ballot. But during the November elections, the initiative fell two percentage points short of passing. This time around, United for Care is looking to get back on the ballot as "Amendment 1," which Floridians will be able to vote for in November 2016.
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.
While the initiative was ultimately defeated at the polls, United for Care was encouraged by the turnout. More people voted for the legalization of medical marijuana than for Rick Scott's reelection.
"We know for certain that the moment we were able to communicate our message — we immediately rose in the polls," Morgan said recently in a news release. "Thanks to your support, we were able to get on TV and online in more markets and were climbing fast in the days before the election. We simply ran out of time. They were able to start big and early on TV, Radio and online — and we had a big hole to climb out of."
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 both have found relief in medical marijuana. 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.
For now, United for Care is asking those who want to see medical marijuana get on the ballot to download and sign a petition.
“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,” Ben Pollara, Uniter for Care campaign manager, said when the group mailed out the 100,000 petitions last month.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C.