The Florida Supreme Court announced that it will convene on December 8, 2015 to hear oral arguments on the validity of an initiated constitutional amendment proposed for the November, 2016 statewide election to expand the legalization of medical marijuana in the state. The Court is obligated by law to review all qualifying ballot initiatives for constitutional amendments on two criteria: (i) whether the amendment as proposed is clear and not misleading; and (ii) whether it complies with the single-subject requirement imposed by Florida law.
Supporters of the drive for expanded medical marijuana proposed a constitutional amendment to voters during the 2014 election. The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, Amendment 2 on the November 4, 2014 ballot, garnered approximately 58% of the votes cast; however, it failed because Florida requires constitutional amendment ballots to obtain a supermajority of 60% or more in order to pass.
According to the pro-legalization group United for Care, the 2016 initiative has been drafted to counter objections made by Amendment 2's opponents. Supporters of expanded access to medical marijuana need to collect a minimum of 683,149 valid signatures by February 1, 2016, in order to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot. The unofficial number of valid signatures as of October 5, 2015 was 239,486.
In addition to proposed public ballot initiatives, Florida legislators already have pre-filed a pair of marijuana-related bills for consideration in the 2016 Legislative Session. Although the chances for passage vary, the bills currently announced for consideration by legislators include the following:
- House Bill HB 63 Medical Use of Low-THC Cannabis: Allows registered patients & designated caregivers to purchase, acquire, & possess low-THC cannabis subject to specified requirements. Filed by Rep. Greg Steube (R) for the 2016 Regular Session (Aug. 13, 2015). Status: Referred to Criminal Justice Subcommittee, referred to Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, referred to Health & Human Services Committee and now in Health Quality Subcommittee.
- House Bill HB 307 Medical Use of Cannabis: Provides for eligible patients to purchase & possess cannabis for medical use; provides for certain licensed dispensing organizations to manufacture, possess, sell, deliver, distribute, dispense, & dispose of cannabis. Filed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) and Katie Edwards (D) for the 2016 Regular Session (Oct. 7, 2015).
Beyond Florida, Ohio has a marijuana ballot initiative coming up for a vote this November. If passed by the voters, Ballot Issue 3 would amend the state constitution to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio; it also would "authorize the use of medical marijuana by any person, regardless of age, who has a certification for a debilitating medical condition." Ballot Issue 3 was certified by the Ohio Secretary of State in August of 2015 for inclusion on the Nov. 3, 2015 ballot.
Additionally, Nevada has approved a measure that will be added onto the state’s 2016 ballots. It would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol for recreational or medical use. Recreational use of marijuana currently is legal in only four states: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State.
Marijuana proponents in Arizona also are collecting signatures on petitions for their own ballot initiatives. Arizona proponents of marijuana legalization are seeking to put a measure on the ballot that would aim at taxing and regulating the sales of marijuana like alcohol. Arizona needs 230,000 voter signatures for its initiative to qualify for a place on the November 8, 2016 statewide ballot, and reportedly has collected over 70,000.
Finally, it is noteworthy that in 2016, marijuana proponents plan on hosting ballot measures in 17 states relating to legalizing marijuana. In addition to Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming will see ballot initiatives relating to legalizing medical marijuana. In addition to Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico will see full recreational legalization initiatives pursue the goal of getting an initiative on the 2016 ballot.