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Dropping the Ball

Petition sponsors sue state as deadline looms

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At the time of this writing, we have less than a month before the deadline to file enough petitions to put the legalization of marijuana to voters on the 2020 ballot. What are the odds? Well, that kinda depends on how much you’ve been smoking today. I’ve taken a pessimistic view of the endeavor from day one, which is unfortunate, but honesty is the best policy. And honestly, it’s just a mess right now.

Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald ended 2019 with a look toward the immediate future of legalization efforts in the state. The news isn’t good. The organizers of Make It Legal Florida have filed suit against the state; their 57-page complaint alleges a litany of shenanigans meant to sabotage the ballot initiative. At issue is a controversial law passed last year that significantly complicates the petition process. It was designed specifically in response to Amendment 2, which brought medical marijuana to Florida, and particularly 2018’s Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to felons. Slipping under the radar, at the end of an exhausting legislative session, the bill was openly touted for its obstructive, anti-democratic properties, and the MILF suit alleges that it basically works exactly as intended. “Part of the controversial new law,” writes Gross, “requires that county supervisors of elections must verify signatures within 30 days of receiving them. According to Make it Legal Florida, that rule effectively establishes ‘a stealth deadline’ of Jan. 2, which is 30 days before the Feb. 1 deadline. Therefore, signatures submitted on Jan. 31 have no chance of being counted.” This law sucks, sure, but it went into effect in July, so everyone involved knew this would be a problem.

MILF, which represents the interests of dispensaries and other major investors in the state’s (literally) ever-growing cannabis industry, had recently touted an influx of cash that was purported to help put them over the top. How have they spent it? I don’t know. Personally, I’ve had two petitions mailed to me in recent weeks, which is weird because I already signed one months ago. It’s unclear how many signatures they’ve gotten so far, but the number is, by all accounts, well-short of the 765,000 they needed to have filed by Feb. 1.

With two groups pushing petitions at the same time, this dualistic approach to an issue on which two-thirds of voters agree has worked to no one’s benefit—no one, that is, except the minority that stands opposed to the initiative, who haven’t had to lift a finger to stem the tide. The tide, it seems, has stemmed itself, and now the future of legalization in this state now rests in the hands of the Leon County Circuit Court, and that is most unfortunate. If this fails, Florida will become the first state to botch this process in the current phase, which is shocking, but not really surprising at all. We warned you!

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