TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Supreme Court isn't the only challenge facing a petition drive to put a proposed medical marijuana constitutional amendment on Florida's 2014 ballot.
Organizers have until Feb. 1 to gather 683,189 voter signatures. As of Tuesday, 162,866 signatures had been certified.
Still, John Morgan of the Morgan & Morgan personal injury law firm thinks there's a good chance a final push will get the effort he's organizing over the top.
"It better, or I'm paying a lot of money for nothing. I'll be wanting a recount," said Morgan, who expects he'll personally spend $2 million on the petition drive before it's over. As of the end of last month, $1.3 million has been spent on the effort - about $1 million out of Morgan's pocket.
Organizers gathered nearly 100,000 petitions last week, bringing the total to nearly 700,000. Now it's a matter of building a cushion to account for invalid signatures. About a quarter of the signatures on the petition won't be valid because people signing aren't registered to vote in Florida, Morgan estimates.
Even if he gets the signatures, Morgan still has to worry about whether the Supreme Court approves ballot summary language that could let voters decide whether to allow marijuana use for medical reasons. Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging the wording, saying voters will be misled into approving widespread use of medical marijuana. Proponents say voters will clearly know they are deciding whether doctors can use their expertise on whether to prescribe the drug for debilitating conditions.
The court heard arguments earlier this month. It will not rule on whether it approves of medical marijuana, but rather whether the 74-word ballot summary is misleading or not. Citizen initiatives are limited to 75 words when summing up a proposed constitutional amendment.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing medical use of marijuana.
Morgan said he's taken on the cause because he's seen the benefit of using the drug.
"I've seen it work twice. I saw it work with my father 20 years ago and I see it work with my brother every single day," said Morgan, whose father had esophageal cancer and whose brother is a quadriplegic.
He said when his father was dying, he was convinced despite his anti-drug attitude to try marijuana to help ease his suffering. It immediately helped, Morgan said.
"I don't know why it works, but I know it does," Morgan said. "He was sitting up eating a pot roast and drinking a Miller Lite. It was miraculous. A different guy. When I'd left him that morning and had that conversation, he was in the fetal position in a hospital bed."
If the signature drive falls short, Morgan will seek to get it on the 2016 ballot.
"I don't have unlimited money, but I have some money so you've got to kind of look around and say, 'Where can I take my money and go have the most good for the most people and get the biggest bang for the buck?'" Morgan said. "That's why I decided to do this now."
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