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Backers say recreational pot issue ‘moot’

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(News Service of Florida)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow recreational marijuana use fired back Wednesday at an argument by the Florida Senate that the state Supreme Court should not review the wording of the proposal.

Senate attorneys this month said the legal issue before the Supreme Court was “moot” because the political committee Make It Legal Florida decided to try to put the amendment on the 2022 ballot.

The committee had initially planned to put the measure on the 2020 ballot and met a threshold of 76,632 petition signatures to trigger a Supreme Court review of the proposed ballot wording. It shifted its focus to the 2022 ballot because it would not be able to meet a Feb. 1 deadline for submitting an overall total of 766,200 signatures to the Florida Department of State.

The Senate argued that the Supreme Court should dismiss the issue, saying that “since the initiative is not going to meet the criteria for placement on the 2020 ballot, such a review is moot.”

But attorneys for the committee disputed that argument in a 14-page brief Tuesday.

Part of the dispute centers on the fact that the number of petitions needed to get on the 2022 ballot will increase from the current 766,200 signatures. The numbers are revised after each presidential election and are based on a formula involving the total votes cast in the presidential election.

But in the brief Tuesday, the committee said that it will qualify for the 2022 ballot if it can submit 766,200 petition signatures before this year’s presidential election. As a result, it said the Supreme Court’s review of its proposed wording is not moot.

“If Make It Legal, Florida garners the requisite number of signatures at any point before the November 3, 2020 presidential election, then the petition initiative at issue in this case will have qualified for placement on the 2022 ballot under the requirements of … the Florida Constitution,” the brief said. “Moreover, Make It Legal, Florida has already qualified for this (Supreme) Court’s review of its initiative petition under the current statutory framework.”

The committee had tallied 438,404 valid signatures as of Tuesday evening, according to the Department of State website.