The Florida Supreme Court has canceled the December 8 oral arguments regarding a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana after Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that her office would not be challenging the measure. After coming two percentage points shy of having medical marijuana legalized in last November's election, United for Care renewed its efforts to get medicinal marijuana back onto the ballot for the 2016 election. It needed to collect 68,317 valid signatures to trigger a Supreme Court review of the ballot language. The Florida Supreme Court will still need to approve the ballot’s wording before the measure can move forward, but United for Care considers the fact that the court deemed no arguments necessary as a major step forward.
"While they still must issue an opinion about the petition, that they felt they did not need to hear from our attorneys is a very, very good sign," United for Care's campaign manager, Ben Pollara, says. "Should they formally approve the amendment language, that would mean the only thing standing in the way of medical marijuana's return to the ballot is collecting enough validated signatures."
United for Care has collected about 342,582 valid signatures and must submit the 683,179 petitions by February to get the measure to go before Florida voters.
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.
“Compassion is coming in 2016!" Morgan said via a release in September. "Tallahassee is broken, but I have faith in the people of Florida. We will win, and hundreds of thousands will benefit as a result.”
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Even with the Supreme Court canceling the arguments, United for Care says its work is not done.
"We need to collect another $37,000 in November to get to $100,000 in total matchable donations," Pollara says.
The group also needs another 340,567 valid signatures to get on the ballot.
In 2014, more people voted for the legalization of medical marijuana than for Rick Scott's reelection. Petitions can be found here.