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Medical Marijuana|Headed for Florida Ballot

(CN) - Florida voters will decide in November if the state will legalize medical marijuana, the Florida Supreme Court ruled.

In a 4-3 ruling Monday, the state Supreme Court said a ballot summary and title submitted by the People United For Medical Marijuana satisfies state law.

"We conclude that the ballot title and summary fairly inform voters of the chief purpose of the amendment and will not mislead voters, who will be able to cast an intelligent and informed ballot as to whether they want a provision in the state constitution authorizing the medical use of marijuana, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, under Florida law," the opinion states.

In approving the proposal, the court rejected Attorney General Pam Bondi's argument that the proposed amendment to the state constitution "would allow far wider marijuana use than the ballot and summary reveal."

According to marijuana advocacy group NORML, the ballot language will state that the measure:

Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician;

Allows caregivers to assist patients' medical use of marijuana;

he Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers;

Applies only to Florida law;

And does not authorize violations of federal law or any nonmedical use, possession or production of marijuana.

In dissent, Chief Justice Ricky Polston said the ballot summary and title "will result in Floridians voting on a constitutional amendment in disguise."

Polston said the measure falsely implies that marijuana use under the amendment would be legal under federal law and fails to disclose that the amendment grants broad immunity to doctors, among other things.

"The summary and title 'hide the ball' and allow this initiative to 'fly under false colors' regarding the severity of medical issues that qualify for marijuana use, a type of deception this court has previously disallowed and assailed against," Polston wrote. "Although this court will not review the substantive merits of this initiative proposal, voters are entitled to know if they are being asked to open Florida to the expansive use of medical marijuana."

In a separate dissenting opinion, Justice Charles T. Canady concluded that the ballot summary is "radically defective" and "misleading."

"The problem here is not with what the summary omits but with what it contains," Canady wrote. "The summary states that the proposed amendment '[d]oes not authorize violations of federal law,' but the truth is that violations of federal law unquestionably are authorized by the amendment. A more misleading characterization of the relationship between the amendment and federal law is hard to conceive."

Twenty states have legalized medical marijuana, and Washington and Colorado have legalized recreational use. Federal officials, however, continue to arrest and prosecute people in states where medical marijuana is legal.

At least 60 percent of voters must approve the measure for it to become law.

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