A ballot question that would legalize medical marijuana has collected enough valid signatures to go before voters later this year, the state Division of Elections said Friday.
But the measure still must pass muster with the state Supreme Court before it can placed on the ballot in the fall.
“You know that country song ‘Jesus, Take the Wheel’? That’s all I can do with the Supreme Court,” said Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, who chairs the group behind the effort. “It’s all in their hands.”
The state's website updated its count Friday to show Morgan’s group, People United For Medical Marijuana, had collected 710,508 signatures. That’s more than the 683,000 required by law to appear on the November general election.
Morgan has spent $2.8 million over the past year to gather the signatures for the measure.
Morgan said People United turned it the signatures during the first week of January and was simply waiting for county supervisors of elections around the state to validate them. The last in was Alachua County, he said.
The Supreme Court is considering challenges raised by Attorney General Pam Bondi and others who opposed the amendment as misleading. If the court agrees on any of the critical points of the challenges, the amendment could be knocked off the November ballot.
The opponents’ main argument deals with the amendment’s language authorizing “the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.”
The actual ballot language defines “debilitating medical condition” as diseases such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C or “other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.’’
That could allow medical marijuana to be prescribed for anything, the challengers argue. People United’s lawyers responded that is not true, saying the conditions must be on par with those specifically listed.
The second challenge involves Bondi’s assertion that the ballot language is confusing when it references federal law, not making it clear that it still will hold medical marijuana as illegal, regardless of what Florida law says.
In addition to Bondi, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, GOP legislative leaders and several statewide lobbying groups, including those representing police chiefs and sheriffs, filed opposition briefs with the court, which must rule by April 1 for the measure to make the ballot.