Ballot Measure to Legalize Weed Gains Approval in Florida

By: Alex Trent | Published: Apr 02, 2024

The Florida Supreme Court has elected not to block a ballot initiative that could legalize marijuana in the state if it gains enough votes to pass in November. The ruling that approved the language in the ballot measure went 5-2 in the conservative-leaning Florida Supreme Court.

The ballot proposal received over one million signatures and will offer Florida residents a chance to decide on recreational marijuana directly, an issue that the state’s legislature has consistently rejected.

Florida Attorney General Objections

The Florida Supreme Court had to vote on whether to reject the language in the ballot measure from a request by Florida Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody. Moody argued that the ballot language was insufficient to make voters aware that the measure would not decriminalize marijuana on the national level and brought up other issues as well.

Florida's Attorney General, Ashley Moody, pictured in 2019.

Source: Florida Attorney General office/Wikimedia

Currently, there is a federal ban on marijuana, which would supersede any state law or regulation regarding the substance.


Majority Opinion

Justice Jamie Grosshans of the Florida Supreme Court wrote the majority opinion that four other justices agreed with, saying the language was not confusing. The opinion countered another argument that the language suggested a licensing scheme for marijuana.

A shot of the Florida Supreme Court Building with state flags adorned near its columns.

Source: Bruin79/Wikimedia

“We do not believe the summary would confuse a voter into thinking that the Legislature is required to authorize additional licenses or that the amendment itself establishes a licensing scheme,” the opinion read.

Narrow Role

While the ballot was approved by the state Supreme Court it could only do so under a “narrow” role.

Brown Wooden Gavel on Brown Wooden Table

Source: Katrin Bolovtsova/Pexels

Grosshans wrote, “Our role is narrow—we assess only whether the amendment conforms to the constitutionally mandated single-subject requirement, whether the ballot summary meets the statutory standard for clarity, and whether the amendment is facially invalid under the federal constitution.”

Ballot Approved

The ballot measure for marijuana was ultimately approved, though the court reiterated that it had done so under the limited considerations before it.

A bag full of the drug marijuana.

Source: Gras Grun/Unsplash

“In light of those limited considerations, we approve the proposed amendment for placement on the ballot,” the opinion read. With the ballot measure now approved by the court, it will be available for voters to decide on when the November general election rolls around.

What Will It Take to Pass?

The ballot measure will require more than just a simple majority to pass in November. It will need to reach a 60% threshold of approval votes before it can become a legal amendment to the state constitution.

A person slides an envelope into a ballot box.

Source: Element 5/Unsplash

While many Republicans oppose the proposed amendment, the Florida public generally supports legalization. A poll from December found that two-thirds of Florida voters supported the constitutional amendment proposal.


Ron DeSantis is Not a Fan

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made previous comments likening recreational marijuana as a menace to society, saying recreational use is a “real problem” and that “drugs are killing this country.” He also previously complained about the smell of the drug.

Ron DeSantis wearing a microphone attached to his ear amid a black background.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

“I’ve gone to some of these cities that have had this everywhere, it smells…I don’t want to be able to go walk in front of shops and have this, I don’t want every hotel to really smell,” DeSantis said.


DeSantis’ History with Marijuana

Ron DeSantis took office as the governor of Florida in January 2019. Just a few weeks into his new role, he was praised for his willingness to call on the legislature to repeal a ban on the sale of some types of smokable medical marijuana.

RonDeSantis in a dark suit and tie stands confidently at a podium, speaking into a microphone. In the background, another man holding a microphone appears slightly out of focus, and an American flag is prominently displayed to the right

Source: Wikimedia Commons

However, in the intervening years, the governor has also signed into law legislation that has tightened restrictions on the medical marijuana industry. A 2023 bill signed by the governor increased restrictions on marketing marijuana products and made it harder for people with criminal convictions to work as employees in the industry.


Candidate DeSantis Would Respect State Decisions

Despite his personal negative opinions toward marijuana, DeSantis has also indicated that he would respect the legalization of marijuana in different states when he was a presidential candidate.

Ron DeSantis in a blue suit stands smiling at a podium, delivering a speech. He is facing an audience, whose backs are to the camera. Behind the speaker is a large American flag that serves as a backdrop for the event

Source: Wikimedia Commons

At a campaign event in January, DeSantis said “We’ll respect the decisions that the states make on that. But I do think some of these places like California and Colorado—I don’t know what they did with it, but, I mean, it has definitely caused a negative impact on their workforce.”


Campaign for Legalization

This latest ballot measure was organized by Smart & Safe Florida, who celebrated the court ruling on X. 

A person pours a legal amount of weed or marijuana from a tube into their hand.

Source: Cannabis Tours/Wikimedia

“The court’s decision echoes our commitment to transparent ballot language and the right for voters to decide on vital issues. Here’s to progress and paving the path towards safer cannabis consumption for adults! #Yeson3,” the group wrote.


Smart & Safe Florida Funding

Politico reports that Smart & Safe Florida has received funding of more than $39 million to organize the campaign from the largest medical marijuana company in Florida, Trulieve. 

A person wearing gloves handles a bud of marijuana.

Source: Beeblebrox/Wikimedia

If the amendment is approved by voters it will allow this company and 24 others to start to sell and grow their own marijuana for any Florida resident over 21 years old.


Trulieve Statement

The CEO of Trulieve, Kim Rivers, wrote a statement thanking the Florida Supreme Court for their decision.

A frontal view of the Florida Supreme Court with bunting on the building.

Source: Bruin79/Wikimedia

“We are thankful that the Court has correctly ruled the ballot initiative and summary language meets the standards for single subject and clarity. We look forward to supporting this campaign as it heads to the ballot this Fall,” the statement said.