The history of the cultivation and use of marijuana by humans is one of the oldest in the world. The earliest evidence of human use of cannabis dates back to around 2737 BCE in present day Iran. By around 3200 BCE, it was become a common treatment for many ailments. Many believe it was the Greek Emperor, Emperor Alexander the Great, who first banned the use of cannabis in the 2nd Century BCE. Around the same time, a Hindu doctor named Charaka was also prescribing cannabis for pain relief. The Chinese used it to treat burns, epilepsy, and inflammation. By the time of the Roman Empire, cannabis was a widely used medicine. It was also found in many ancient texts, including the Ebers papyrus from 1550 BCE.
The Florida Supreme Court today rendered a unanimous decision unanimously invalidating a voter-approved law that legalized medical marijuana in the state. The decision, which came on a 4 to 1 ruling, could force the state to go back to the initiative process in 2016.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that an initiative proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults is misguided and cannot be placed on the ballot next year. This is the second time in the past three months that Florida’s highest court has rejected a proposed ballot measure to legalize cannabis in the state.
The group Reasonable Florida has launched an initiative to introduce a constitutional amendment for a marijuana regulation similar to alcohol with age, licensing and other restrictions. If passed, the constitutional amendment would legalize adult use of marijuana and locally produced marijuana and create a regulated cannabis economy.
After the campaign gathered enough signatures to qualify for constitutional review, Florida’s attorney general asked the state Supreme Court in September 2019 to determine whether the ballot language was legal. The court heard oral arguments in the case in February 2023, but did not make its ruling until Thursday, more than two years later.
A majority of the court, consisting of Judges Charles Canady, Ricky Polston, Carlos Muñiz, John Coorey and Jamie Grosshans, ruled that the summary description of the measure was unconstitutionally misleading and could not be placed on the 2023 ballot. The court based its decision on the inclusion of the term restricted use in the 75-word summary of the ballots.
The initiative states that it legalizes cannabis for limited use and cultivation by persons twenty-one years of age or older. The court found that the wording of the summary could mislead voters by leading them to believe that the initiative limited the amount of cannabis a person could consume. However, no such wording can be found in the initiative.
The fact that the sponsor did not mention anything in the text of the measure that would convincingly support the limited use language in the summary leaves no doubt that the summary is affirmatively misleading, the justices wrote in the majority opinion.
Florida Supreme Court ruling provoked strong reactions
Following the announcement of the court’s decision, Lauren Cassidy, a spokeswoman for Moody, thanked the court in a statement.
Florida residents need to fully understand what they are voting for when they go to the polls, Cassidy said.
Attorney Michael Minardi, who supports the initiative, told local media that he was disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision. He said Sensible Florida will draft a new initiative and still hopes the measure qualifies for the 2023 ballot.
We have already rewritten several alternative versions, Minardi said. It’s really nice to finally have that opinion.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District and hopes to become the Democratic challenger to Governor Ros DeSantis in next year’s election, criticized the court’s decision in a post on social media.
The Florida Supreme Court, which @GovRonDeSantis has filled with biased judges, just rejected another ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. It’s not fair. Legalization should be decided by the people of Florida, Crist wrote on Twitter.
Court rejects separate initiative in April
Thursday’s decision is the second in three months that the Florida Supreme Court has rejected a marijuana legalization measure proposed by the group Make It Legal Florida. In April, the court ruled that the separate ballot proposal was misleading because the summary did not state that cannabis would still be illegal under federal law.
A constitutional amendment cannot expressly authorize or punish conduct that is punishable under federal law, Canady wrote in the decision. A summary of the Bulletin that suggests otherwise is plainly misleading.
After the measure was rejected, Florida’s agriculture commissioner and another Democrat seeking to challenge DeSantis said state lawmakers had let their constituents down.
Florida voters took matters into their own hands because the Florida Legislature failed to do the right thing for the people by taking legislative action to legalize the practice, Fried said. I advise them to listen to the will of the people or they will soon lose their jobs.