Florida Supreme Court decisions on pot and abortion ballot measures are expected Monday

pot plants
Cannabis plants from a marijuana grow house. By Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (May 2011).

By Jim Saunders ©2024 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — The wait likely will last through the weekend.

The Florida Supreme Court appears poised Monday afternoon to issue rulings about whether proposed constitutional amendments that seek to ensure abortion rights and allow recreational marijuana will go on the November ballot.

The court Thursday evening issued a statement that said it will release “out-of-calendar” opinions at 4 p.m. Monday. The court typically releases opinions each Thursday morning, with “out-of-calendar” opinions released other times.

Justices had been widely expected to rule on the proposed constitutional amendments on Thursday because they face a Monday deadline on the issues. But the court said in an email Thursday morning that there were “no Florida Supreme Court opinions ready for release today.” The court will be closed Friday for Good Friday.

The Florida Democratic Party, which is trying to make abortion rights a major issue in the November elections, sent out a fund-raising email Thursday that noted the delay.

“This is nerve wracking, folks,” the email said. “We are still waiting to hear a decision from the Florida Supreme Court that will determine whether or not abortion access will be on the ballot in November.”

Political committees behind the two proposed amendments have submitted enough petition signatures to reach the ballot. But the Supreme Court plays a key role because it must decide whether the wording of initiatives’ ballot titles and summaries — the parts that voters see when they go to the polls — meet legal tests. Those tests include whether the wording is clear and whether it deals with only single subjects.

While the political committees argue that both proposals should get Supreme Court approval, Attorney General Ashley Moody and other opponents contend that justices should block the measures from the ballot.

The committee Floridians Protecting Freedom announced the abortion-rights initiative in May after the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a law that could prevent abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The six-week limit is contingent on the outcome of a legal battle about a 15-week abortion limit that DeSantis and lawmakers approved in 2022.

The ballot summary of the proposal says, in part: “No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.”

Meanwhile, the recreational marijuana initiative, sponsored by the Smart & Safe Florida political committee, comes after Florida voters in 2016 passed an initiative that broadly allowed medical marijuana.

The proposed ballot summary, in part, says the measure would allow “adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories” for non-medical consumption.

If the proposals reach the ballot, they would need approval from 60 percent of voters to pass.

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