Florida could become the latest US state to relax its laws on marijuana use after a court ruled Monday that a proposal to legalize medicinal pot could be put before voters later this year.
Advocates seeking to legalize pot for medicinal purposes in Florida said they exceeded the 683,149 signatures needed to put the measure on a November ballot by almost 40,000.
And in a 4-3 ruling from the state Supreme Court, the legality and the wording of the measure, which was challenged by state officials, was given a green light.
“Voters are given fair notice as to the chief purpose and scope of the proposed amendment, which is to allow a restricted use of marijuana for certain debilitating medical conditions,” the ruling said.
For Ben Pollara, campaign manager of People United for Medical Marijuana said the move “is a historic moment for the people of Florida — and in particular, those suffering from debilitating conditions and illnesses.”
“Now the work of educating voters and combating false information truly begins,” said Pollara, who added that a total of 722,416 signatures were collected across the state ahead of Friday’s deadline.
Republican Governor Rick Scott and conservative politicians in the state have vowed to fight the issue. Voters will have the chance to weigh in on it in the November 4 election.
State Attorney General Pam Bondi, who opposed the measure, has not yet reacted to the court’s decision.
The issue of recreational and medical cannabis use is controversial in the United States, where opponents fear crime connected to drug abuse and addiction. Some argue pot use could lead to dependence on harder drugs.
US public opinion on the matter has been changing quickly, however.
President Barack Obama in an interview published last week said he believes that smoking pot is no more dangerous than drinking, although he still considers it a “bad idea.”
Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he will authorize the medical use of marijuana, making his one of nearly two dozen US states to do so.
California in 1996 became the first state to legalize medical marijuana.
Meanwhile, Colorado has gone one big step further, allowing adults in the state beginning this month to buy small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.
The state of Washington took a similar measure, set to take effect in the coming months.
According to an October 2013 Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]