Medical marijuana ballot initiative is challenged at the State Supreme Court

Focus on wording of the ballot summary

TALLAHASSEE - Supporters of medical marijuana say they're trying to help people like Cathy Jordan of Manatee County. Her husband, Bob, says marijuana - and only marijuana - gives Cathy relief from the symptoms of Lou Gehrig's Disease that she's fought for 20 years.

"How does it work? I don't know. All I know is when she has it she feels better and when she doesn't have it, she's sick" said Bob Jordan.

A petition signature drive is under way to put the issue on the ballot for November of next year. It's backed and bankrolled by one of the most powerful personal injury attorneys in the nation, John Morgan.

"We think for the money that we're spending on this, the good that can come day one to between 150 and 400,000 people is huge. So the bang for our buck, we think is worth it," said Morgan.

But powerful forces, including Attorney General Pam Bondi and the leaders of both houses of the legislature, are trying to keep it off the ballot by challenging the wording of the summary before the state supreme court.

The attorney for opponents of medical marijuana argued that ballot summary (limited by law to only 75 words)  is misleading because it implies it will make medical pot available ONLY to those with debilitating disease while the amendment text allows it for any condition in which a doctor believes the benefit outweighs the potential health risk.

Chief Judge Ricky Polston asked this provocative hypothetical: "If a student was stressed  over exams and went in to see the doctor and says I'm really stressed out. The doctor says I've got something I can help you with and prescribes marijuana. Wouldn't that be included in this?"

John Mills, the attorney for People United for Medical Marijuana, disagreed.

"No your honor, not in my opinion. The issue isn't my opinion. The issue is the opinion is of the doctor who has professional responsibilities," said Mills.

A recent poll shows 82 percent of Floridians support medical marijuana. If the court rules against the ballot language, the backers will likely not have enough time to start gathering signatures again in time for the February deadline which means the issue will be dead until 2015 at the earliest.
 

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