The Florida Supreme has made a final approval on the 2016 version of United for Care's medical marijuana petition. This means that getting legalized medical weed on next November's ballot is nearly a done deal. Bottom line, the measure will be on the 2016 ballot, as long as United for Care gets the required valid signatures from supporters by February.
Back in July, United for Care shipped more than 100,000 petitions to Florida Supervisors of Elections offices for Supreme Court review. The petitions needed to be verified by Supervisor of Elections so that the Supreme Court could then schedule a review so the initiative can start to make its way to the ballot.
The Supreme Court had scheduled oral arguments over the group's proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana for earlier this month, but eventually canceled those proceedings after Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that her office would not be challenging the measure. Even still, the Court needed to approve the ballot’s wording before the measure could proceed, and now it has, as United for Care puts it, "put it's stamp of approval" on the petition.
"The unanimous decision by the Florida Supreme Court to approve the new medical marijuana constitutional amendment is a huge victory for hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians who could benefit from the passage of such a law," United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara tells New Times via email. "While we still must collect the required number of petitions before officially being placed on the 2016 ballot, we are confident that we will and that Florida voters will approve this amendment in the general election."
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 of that year, 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.
"We feel strongly that well over the required 60 percent of Floridians will vote 'yes' for a comprehensive and compassionate medical marijuana law," Pollara says.
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United for Care, which has been powered by a grassroots 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.
"This is a huge victory for Florida," Morgan said in a statement Thursday. "We will win next November. Compassion is coming!"
What this means now is that United for Care must secure 683,149 validated petitions. As of this report, the group has collected over 400,000 validated petitions. The deadline is February 1.