When Florida debated whether to legalize medical marijuana in 2014, one of the loudest detractors was state Attorney General Pam Bondi. She tried everything in her power to block the proposed amendment from appearing on the ballot. As it turned out, the amendment did make its way in front of voters, but it narrowly failed to meet the 60 percent approval threshold to become law.
Well, backers are trying to get medical marijuana back on the ballot in 2016, and this time Bondi has decided to sit the battle out.
Regardless of her position, Bondi is legally required to officially ask the Florida Supreme Court to review any ballot initiative's validity and can do so even when the proposed amendment has received only a tenth of the signatures necessary to get on the ballot. Bondi decided to go ahead and pull the trigger last month on the medical marijuana ballot even though it's still about 450,000 signature shy.
The big difference is that in 2014, Bondi sent a letter to the court including her own legal analysis of the ballot. She said that the language was misleading and that, technically, legalizing medical marijuana would violate federal law.
But Bondi's office announced today that she won't be weighing in this time.
Granted, her opposition didn't do much to derail the amendment last time, but People United for Care, the group behind the push, hopes it signals that Tallahassee politicians overall will take a less adversarial position this time around on the amendment.
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“In 2014, Pam Bondi and others filed over 200 pages of opposition to medical marijuana at the Florida Supreme Court; this time, they’ve filed zero," Ben Pollara, the group's campaign manager, says in a statement sent to New Times. "I hope this is a sign that Tallahassee politicians and special interests now understand what the people of Florida have: Marijuana helps people, and our doctors should be trusted to recommend it to their sick and suffering patients.”
Of course, in 2014, the fate of the amendment wasn't so much affected by politicians as it was by two very rich men.
Trial lawyer John Morgan bankrolled both the 2014 and 2016 ballots, but Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson spent $5.5 million of his own money to oppose the amendment. Though for months polls showed the amendment passing by wide margins, the last-minute anti-pot campaign tipped the scales just enough to prevent the amendment from reaching the tough 60 percent threshold.
The ballot language this year specifically addresses some of the biggest concerns about the 2014 version. Namely, it clarifies the issue of parental consent and tightens the list of conditions for which a doctor can prescribe medical marijuana.