Florida State Attorney General Ashley Moody has lobbed a legal challenge against the latest ballot initiative seeking to legalize recreational marijuana, arguing it violates the state’s constitution.
The news comes a month after the political committee sponsoring the initiative, Safe & Smart Florida, surpassed the needed 222,881 petition signatures in April.
“The proposed amendment fails to meet the requirements of specific state law,” Moody said in her submission. She declined to elaborate, pledging to present “additional argument through a briefing at the appropriate time.”
For any amendment to become part of the Florida Constitution, it must receive approval from the Florida Supreme Court and the backing of 60% of voters in a general election. Past efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in the state have failed, largely due to concerns about decriminalization under state law while federal law continues to ban marijuana use.
Sally Peebles, a Florida-based attorney with Vicente Sederberg, expressed cautious optimism about the proposed amendment’s chances.
“I have consistently said that I believe this most recent attempt to legalize marijuana in the state of Florida is the best attempt yet because the language is clean and very simple,” Peebles told Green Market Report.
According to her, the current proposal avoids violations of the single subject rule or clarity requirements, which were stumbling blocks for previous efforts.
Still, she said that she is “not naïve” and acknowledged the conservative disposition of the Florida state government and its Supreme Court, conceding that “if there’s any argument to be had, that this does violate the single subject rule, then I think they will certainly agree with [Attorney General Ashley] Moody on that.”
Despite this, Peebles said that Safe & Smart Florida more than likely has been prepared for the legal fight, calling the current initiative “the strongest attempt yet.” She stressed that the primary objective of the initiative is unambiguous: “to no longer have marijuana prohibition in Florida.”
Moody, who has consistently opposed legalization, maintained that the amendment violates a law requiring constitutional amendments to cover only a single subject and to be fully compliant with the state’s technical requirements.
The proposed amendment’s changes would remove criminal liability or civil sanctions for the non-medical use of marijuana and would authorize all licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers in Florida to produce and sell recreational cannabis products.
The Supreme Court will determine whether to hold oral arguments on the matter after the June 12 deadline for opponents to file their briefs.
Trulieve’s Long Play?
Florida’s largest medical marijuana producer, Trulieve Cannabis Corp. has provided substantial financial backing for the effort. As of April, the company had donated $38.5 million to Safe & Smart Florida, according to campaign finance records. The bulk of the committee’s funding has been spent on collecting and validating petition signatures.
“The adult-use opportunity in Florida is the most significant near-term catalyst for Trulieve,” Rivers told investors in a recent earnings call, touting that the campaign had gathered enough raw signatures for inclusion on the November 2024 ballot. As of publication, the state had not verified the signatures.
Rivers estimated that Florida, with 22 million residents and 138 million annual tourist visits, could become a leading legal cannabis market, potentially reaching $6 billion in annual revenue.
Florida’s medical marijuana market is also set to expand following the passage of a bill that extends the renewal of marijuana prescriptions over telehealth and authorizes nearly a dozen additional licenses for Black farmers to enter the cannabis industry.
According to sources familiar with the matter, the new Pigford licenses will not reduce the number of licenses from a separate application process – which concluded during the last week of April – that offered an additional 22 licenses.
“We believe the ballot language meets Florida’s single subject and related laws and look forward to the Smart & Safe campaign bringing this matter before the court where we expect a positive ruling,” a spokesperson for Trulieve told Green Market Report.