Medical marijuana backers in Florida say they've reached a big milestone, collecting enough signatures -- more than 1 million -- to place a constitutional amendment legalizing medical pot on the November ballot.
Ben Pollara, the campaign manager of United for Care, sent out an email last night with the heading, "We did it" and wrote: "I believe we have collected the petitions we need to get on the ballot. Over 1.1 million in all."
The initiative still has some big hurdles to clear:
--County election supervisors have to verify the petition signatures, making sure that those who signed are registered voters and gave valid information. There needs to be a certain number of valid signatures in each of Florida's 67 counties in order for the initiative to get placed on the ballot. The statewide total needed is just below 700,000. Organizers collected many more because they anticipated many signatures would be invalid.
--The Florida Supreme Court has to approve the ballot initiative. State Attorney General Pam Bondi and others have challenged the effort, saying the wording of the ballot summary is flawed (covering more than just one issue), a claim the backers deny. The Supreme Court heard arguments in December and will likely rule in the next month. There could also be another challenge regarding the validity of the signatures.
If the issue makes it to the November ballot, it would need 60 percent voter approval to pass. Recent polls suggest widespread support across the political spectrum, with over 70 percent of likely voters saying they'd vote yes.
Medical marijuana has been legalized by 20 states and the District of Columbia, but the federal government still classifies pot as a dangerous illegal drug with no accepted medical use.