Florida authorities have announced the arrest of two people who allegedly falsified signatures on petitions to put a marijuana legalization initiative on the state’s 2024 ballot. The arrests come as the state Supreme Court is reviewing a legal challenge to the ballot measure by the state attorney general.
Fraudulent Petitions Submitted by Paid Canvassers
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), two paid canvassers submitted dozens of falsified petitions for the marijuana legalization initiative, as well as for an unrelated gambling-related initiative. The FDLE said that the investigation began in June 2023, after the Florida Division of Elections notified them of possible fraudulent activity.
The two canvassers, identified as John Doe and Jane Doe, are facing multiple felony counts of submitting falsified petitions, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine per count. The FDLE said that they are still looking for a third suspect, who is also involved in the fraud scheme.
The FDLE Commissioner, Mark Glass, said that the election process “must remain free from those who would commit voter fraud to champion an initiative or candidate,” and that “paid petition circulators were trying to game the voting system.”
Marijuana Legalization Initiative Still on Track for 2024 Ballot
The marijuana legalization initiative, sponsored by Smart & Safe Florida, is still on track to appear on the 2024 ballot, despite the fraud allegations. The campaign said that it is “fully supportive of FDLE’s investigation and we pledge to cooperate in any way we can.” The campaign also said that if the allegations are true, “we hope the individuals involved are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants for personal use. It would also establish a regulated market for marijuana sales and taxation, and expunge the records of people with prior marijuana convictions.
The campaign submitted nearly one million signatures for ballot placement, well beyond the 891,523 needed. The initiative also met the requirement of having valid signatures from at least eight percent of the district-wide vote in the most recent presidential election in at least 14 of the state’s 28 congressional districts.
Legal Challenge by State Attorney General Pending
The marijuana legalization initiative is facing a legal challenge by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody ®, who filed a petition with the state Supreme Court in May 2023, arguing that the ballot measure is misleading and violates the single-subject rule. Moody claimed that the initiative does not inform voters of the potential conflicts with federal law, and that it covers multiple subjects, such as taxation, regulation, expungement, and home cultivation.
The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case in October 2023, but has not issued a ruling yet. The court has the authority to strike down the initiative if it finds that it does not comply with the constitutional requirements for ballot measures.
The court’s decision could have a significant impact on the fate of the marijuana legalization initiative, as well as on the future of cannabis reform in Florida, which is the third most populous state in the nation.