Florida high court approves November ballot questions on abortion, adult-use marijuana

By Chris Benson
Abortion rights supporters rally at Orlando City Hall before marching through the streets of downtown Orlando in May 2022. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI
1 of 3 | Abortion rights supporters rally at Orlando City Hall before marching through the streets of downtown Orlando in May 2022. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

April 1 (UPI) -- The Florida Supreme Court on Monday ruled to to allow separate November ballot questions on abortion and recreational marijuana.

Justices also ruled to uphold a 15-week abortion ban that now will be tested at the ballot booth this fall.


Late Monday afternoon, the state's high court ruled on the ballot question eligibility to enshrine or not the right to an abortion into Florida's constitution. The so-called Amendment Four measure would seek to legally prevent an abortion ban in Florida.

Attorney General Ashley Moody represented the state in its argument against the two proposed amendments. Moody's argument centered on her belief that neither amendment had been worded clear enough.

"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. This amendment does not change the Legislature's constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion," the proposed text of the abortion amendment says.


The "Floridians Protecting Freedom" got 910,946 signatures -- almost 20,000 more than the 891,000 required -- from at least 14 of the state's 28 congressional districts to be eligible for the ballot.

Florida's American Civil Liberties Union called Monday's ruling "a triumph for democracy in Florida, affirming the power of our ballot initiative process to safeguard our rights when politicians falter."

"In the face of a six-week abortion ban, Floridians now have the chance to assert their will at the ballot box, shaping a Florida that is free from government interference in abortion," Sarah Latshaw, Florida ACLU's deputy political director, said on X.

Florida's House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, a Democrat, was critical of the court's decision to uphold the DeSantis abortion ban.

"MAGA extremists pushed through a draconian law that bans abortions after 6 weeks -- before most women know they're pregnant. If you're not in the room at my next OB appointment, you shouldn't have a say in my medical decisions," Driskell said on social media.

Referencing previous ballot initiatives which codified abortion and successfully passed in similar ballot initiatives in Kansas and Ohio, Driskell said Floridians "are in control of our own destiny," before urging her followers to vote in November.


U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., applauded his state's high court decision to allow the abortion ballot initiative to be placed before voters.

"Everyone deserves the right to make their own healthcare decisions, and this referendum gives women the opportunity to voice that opinion," he said on X.

Similar ballot initiatives over the last few years that have centered on abortion have mostly favored Democrats in electoral victories.

The proposal for the ballot question on legalizing adult-use marijuana also attracted a large response from the state's citizens.

In June, the state reported that the Amendment Three -- which seeks to legalize the use of recreational marijuana -- had gotten 967,528 signatures from Florida's over 22 million residents. That response was more than the needed 891,523 to appear on Nov. 5 election ballot.

Smart & Safe Florida -- the group which organized the ballot effort -- had raised $40,000,000 over the last few years for their ballot initiative.

"Allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise; allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories. Applies to Florida law; does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law. Establishes possession limits for personal use. Allows consistent legislation. Defines terms," reads the proposed ballot summary on marijuana that would appear before voters.


Florida's court had a constitutional April 1 deadline to make a decision on proposed ballot initiatives. DeSantis -- who appointed five of the seven state supreme court judges -- had previously expressed his hope that the ballot measure would not go before the voters.

Both topics are strong at attracting voters.

Ballot initiatives on abortion have been driving voter turnout across the United States even in historically conservative states. In Florida, 60% approval is needed in order to make the proposal law. Meanwhile, abortion is expected to play a large role in this year's election outcome.

Both topics also have become politically charged.

A history professor at University of Central Florida told News 6 that the proposed marijuana amendment -- if voters approve it in November -- would loosen laws around recreational marijuana use, which he says "Republicans don't want."

"First of all, [Republicans] don't want to loosen the marijuana laws, but secondly, they see it as a political issue. They might see it draw voters, especially young liberal voters who might tend to vote Democratic," said Dr. Jim Clark, a senior history lecturer the university.

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