Pam Bondi, Fla. A.G. challenges medical marijuana push

Pam Bondi criticized the proposed amendment to allow the practice in a filing to the Florida Supreme Court. By law, the attorney general asks the court to review proposed amendments when nearly 70,000 signatures have been collected.

Cliff McBride/The Tampa Bay Times/AP
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks in Sept at the Falkenburg Road jail in Tampa, Fla.

A push to allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons is drawing staunch opposition from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

In a filing to the Florida Supreme Court, Bondi on Thursday criticized the proposed amendment to allow the practice. By law, the attorney general asks the court to review proposed amendments when nearly 70,000 signatures have been collected.

The Supreme Court could block the amendment from going forward if justices agree with Bondi. Backers of the measure must collect nearly 700,000 signatures by next February in order to make the 2014 ballot. It would be unlikely they could make that deadline if they were forced to start over.

The Republican attorney general called the wording of the amendment misleading — which is one of the reasons the court can keep it off the ballot.

Bondi contended that the measure will allow the use of marijuana in "limitless situations" even though the title and summary of the amendment suggest it would allow medical marijuana in specific cases such as for patients of "debilitating diseases."

"The sponsor has obscured the most fundamental issue underlying its proposal: the nature and scope of marijuana use the amendment would allow," Bondi wrote. "Any physician could approve marijuana for seemingly any reason to seemingly any person (of any age)-including those without any 'debilitating disease.' So long as a physician held the opinion that the drug use would likely outweigh the risks, Florida would be powerless to stop it."

Bondi, who led a push to have Florida crack down on pill mills and the illegal use of prescription drugs, also asserted that the amendment misleads voters into thinking that the amendment would comply with federal law when it doesn't.

A top official with United for Care — the name of the campaign to pass the amendment — said in a statement that he was confident the amendment would pass muster with the court.

Ben Pollara, campaign manager for the group, criticized Bondi for trying "to deny Floridians the opportunity to even vote on this issue." Florida law requires a supermajority of voters — 60 percent — in order for an amendment to pass.

"It is not surprising that out of touch Tallahassee politicians like Pam Bondi continue to oppose compassionate health care policy in Florida," Pollara said in a statement. "We are also confident that when they are finally given an opportunity to vote on this issue, Floridians will - by a wide margin - bring safe, compassionate access to medical marijuana to the thousands of very ill residents of our state who are suffering every day without it."

People United for Medical Marijuana, the political committee pushing to get the amendment on the ballot, is trying to collect enough signatures as the deadline gets closer. John Morgan, a prominent attorney and chairman of the group, has been constantly running radio ads that criticize state legislators for refusing to consider bills to allow the use of medical marijuana.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is expected to run for governor next year as a Democrat, works at the Morgan & Morgan law firm.

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