- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A proposed constitutional amendment to allow the medical use of marijuana will go before Florida voters in November after the state Supreme Court narrowly approved the ballot language Monday.

The 4-3 decision is a victory for personal injury lawyer John Morgan, who spent $4 million on a medical marijuana petition drive, and a defeat for Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi, who fought to keep the question off the ballot.

The decision comes three days after Morgan secured enough voter signatures to make the ballot. He made a massive push in December and January to beat the Feb. 1 deadline instead of waiting for the Supreme Court decision - a gamble that has now paid off.

“In our businesses, our cases are against the tobacco industries, pharmaceutical industries, big car companies, so we’re used to gambles, but we take calculated gambles,” Morgan said. “We like to win and we don’t just go down a rat hole unless we think we can win.”

Bondi said the matter is now up to voters.

“I encourage every Floridian to read the full amendment in order to understand the impact it could have on Floridians,” she said in a statement issued by her office.

Gov. Rick Scott, who is the former CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz - all Republicans - backed Bondi’s effort to keep the question of the ballot.

“I have a great deal of empathy for people battling difficult diseases and I understand arguments in favor of this initiative,” Scott said in a statement released by his office. “But having seen the terrible effects of alcohol and drug abuse first-hand, I cannot endorse sending Florida down this path and I would personally vote against it. No matter my personal beliefs, however, a ballot initiative would be up to the voters to decide.”

Weatherford said he hopes voters reject the idea.

“I have faith they will do their homework and understand the impact of this truly radical proposal. Make no mistake: this is not about compassionate medical marijuana. This is about the Coloradofication of Florida, where the end game is a pot shop on every street corner,” Weatherford said in a statement issued through a spokesman.

Gaetz’ office said he had no comment.

“The people of Florida don’t like when their vote is tried to be suppressed,” Morgan said. “Unfortunately there’s some politicians in the state who did not want the people to have the say and they forgot that the power is in the people and democracy is based in the people.”

Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia, and Colorado and Washington state allow recreational use.

Polls have shown strong support for the measure in Florida. It must receive 60 percent approval from voters, and Morgan said his attention now turns to the campaign to get the measure passed.

“Now the people of Florida get to do what the Florida Legislature refused to do, which is to hear evidence, to see testimony, to hear real life stories, to read scientific journals, to talk to real people and then vote on it,” Morgan said.

Story Continues →