On Oct. 24, Attorney General Pam Bondi petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for an advisory opinion regarding the validity of a proposed amendment to Florida’s Constitution that would allow the medical use of marijuana for patients with a “debilitating medical condition,” including cancer, glaucoma, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or “other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health benefits for a patient.”
The initiative is sponsored by a political committee called “People United for Medical Marijuana.” The AG is concerned that the initiative does not meet the strict requirements necessary to place an initiative on the ballot for the voters to either approve or disapprove. According to the AG, as worded, the proposal does not convey its “true meaning and ramifications.” The AG’s case against the initiative is partially based on an argument that the amendment suggests that medical marijuana would only be allowed in narrow, defined circumstances, to patients with “debilitating diseases.” However, because the proposal includes a catch-all phrase - “other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health benefits for a patient” — medical marijuana would actually be available for any reason and to any person of any age.
In the past, the Florida Supreme Court has invalidated proposed constitutional amendments for similar reasons. For example, a proposal allowing casinos in “hotels” was invalidated because it used the term “transient lodging establishments” — not “hotels.” Because the term “hotels” was narrower than the term “transient lodging establishments,” the Supreme Court did not allow it on the ballot.
The AG has a number of other issues with the proposed Medical Marijuana Amendment. And so, the issue is up for review by the Florida Supreme Court to determine whether the initiative will go “up in smoke” for failing to meet the strict requirements for proposing an amendment to Florida’s Constitution.
Bill Martin is a former B-52 and B-1 pilot and senior attorney for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and is admitted to the U.S. Tax Court and Court of Federal Claims. He is currently a partner in the law firm of Keefe, Anchors & Gordon in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.