Multiple times in the past, we at Broward Criminal Lawyer have discussed the campaign to put a new act for a recreational marijuana legalization bill on the 2018 ballot. However, the deadline for new bills on the ballot has come and gone, and state citizens will not be able to vote on the proposed Florida Cannabis Act nor on the Florida Recreational Marijuana Amendment in the midterm elections after all. Unfortunately, the citizens who drafted and them campaigned for these proposals did not meet the requirements set by the state constitution.
Many people in Florida do not know that there is a way for citizens to get their own ideas for Florida constitutional amendments on the election ballot. This may be because not many initiated constitutional amendments ever get on the ballot, let alone get passed into law. There are many hurdles in the process. Here are the requirements for citizens to propose Florida constitutional amendments.
Ballotpedia lists a number of rules and restrictions that initiated amendments must follow before receiving Florida Supreme Court approval. One is the single-subject rule, which states that unless a measure deals with “limiting the power of government to raise revenue,” it can only be based on a single subject. Another restriction focuses on word count. Ballot summaries can only be a maximum of 75 words. However, for resolutions with multiple ballot statements, only the first summary needs to be 75 words or less.
There are also several steps to go for receiving approval. Once sponsors collect 10 percent of the required signatures throughout all of Florida, including 10 percent each from one-eighth of the state’s 27 congressional districts, they must send the signatures to each county’s Supervisor of Elections so they can be counted. If they confirm that those requirements were met, they then send the ballot title and summary for approval by the secretary of state, who “is required to petition the Florida Supreme Court for an advisory opinion.”
What ultimately stopped these marijuana-related proposals for Florida constitutional amendments was the signature collection step of the process. According to the state constitution, initiated constitutional amendments will only be placed on the ballot if sponsors manage to collect enough signatures to match 8% of the total number of votes cast by state citizens in the previous presidential election. Making this tougher still is that the number of signatures collected must also equal, as Ballotpedia explains, “at least 8 percent of the district-wide vote … in at least half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts.
In 2016, almost 9.5 million Floridians cast their votes in the general election. This means that for the 2018 ballot, sponsors needed to collect 766,200 signatures. According to the Miami New Times, by February 1 – the deadline for new amendment proposals – the Regulate Florida campaign only managed to submit 40,000.
What’s Next for the Campaign?
The state of Florida is one of eighteen states in the country that provides citizens with a means to put their own proposals for constitutional amendments on election ballots. However, the requirements often prove too intimidating and difficult to overcome. That turned out to be the case with the Florida Cannabis Act and the Florida Recreational Marijuana Amendment.
Despite the defeat, Sensible Florida, an advocacy group that created the Regulate Florida campaign, does not seem to be letting the news get it down. Miami New Times reports that the organization now has its sights on 2020, and members are collecting the signatures all over again. All this is an example of Florida’s democratic process at work.
If you or a loved one wants any assistance with matters pertaining to Florida’s drug laws, the marijuana criminal defense lawyers at Broward Criminal Lawyer can provide you with any help you need. Call today at (954) 462-1005 for a free consultation.