Efforts to legalize recreational cannabis in Florida have hit what is most likely a dead end after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s most high-profile cannabis reform proposal was misleading. The constitutional ballot initiative, which was sponsored by Make it Legal Florida with the backing of Florida’s medical marijuana industry, would have tasked voters with deciding whether or not Florida should allow adults aged 21 years and older to possess up to two and a half ounces of cannabis.
The Make it Legal Florida campaign had collected more than 556,000 signatures out of the 891,589 signatures the initiative would need to qualify for next year’s ballot. Additionally, the campaign raised more than $8.2 million to fund the cannabis reform initiative. However, the court took issue with language in the ballot initiative that made it seem as if the legislation would insulate Floridians from any federal repercussions for purchasing or possessing cannabis.
An opinion penned by Chief Justice Charles Canady stated that the word “permit” caused a great deal of concern among a majority of judges. According to the justices, the language of the amendment did not sufficiently inform people that, although it would legalize recreational cannabis at the state level, the controversial plant still remains illegal on the federal front. By suggesting that it would permit the purchase and possession of cannabis, something that is criminalized by federal law, Canady wrote that the ballot summary for the initiative was “affirmatively misleading.”
The backers behind the 2016 medical marijuana initiative that legalized medical cannabis in the state avoided this pitfall by noting that the initiative did not protect residents of Florida who purchase and possess cannabis from “violations of federal law,” Canady wrote.
Even so, Juan Carlos Planas, a Miami-based attorney who has a wealth of knowledge in the nitty-gritty of constitutional ballot language, says the ruling has left him worried. A ballot summary usually contains just a few dozen words, and there was no feasible way for Make It Legal Florida to explain the state proposal’s federal consequences in such a limited space. He says that while he isn’t particularly concerned about marijuana, he wonders how people will be able to craft constitutional amendments now.
The decision is also a sign of an ideological shift to the right under Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. Not only were three of the judges who voted to rule the initiative misleading appointed by DeSantis, but both the Republican-controlled House and Senate had filed briefs stating their opposition to the ballot initiative. The ruling comes at a time when more states are legalizing cannabis, with New York and Virginia being the latest to allow recreational cannabis.
While the initiative to put marijuana legalization on the ballot has been stopped in its tracks, medical cannabis users in Florida can still access a wide range of products, including the plant medicine dose-measuring devices made by RYAH Group Inc.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to RYAH Group Inc. are available in the company’s newsroom at https://cnw.fm/RYAH
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