February arguments set on assault weapons, pot

The Florida Supreme Court has scheduled February arguments for proposed constitutional amendments that would ban assault weapons and legalize recreational marijuana. The court on Monday set Feb. 4 arguments for each of the ballot initiatives.

The court has limited authority over proposed constitutional amendments; its power is restricted to deciding whether the measures fairly and accurately make known the chief purposes of the amendments and whether the proposals comply with the state’s single-subject rule for citizen initiatives.

Sponsors of the two ballot initiatives are hoping to place the measures on the November 2020 ballot. One of the proposals, titled “Prohibits Possession of Defined Assault Weapons,” would ban the sale and possession of certain guns. The proposal, spearheaded by the political committee Ban Assault Weapons NOW, would prohibit possession of “semi-automatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device.”

Attorney General Ashley Moody has challenged both proposals in filings with the Supreme Court. Moody called the proposed assault weapons ballot language “clearly and conclusive defective.”

A separate proposal, titled “Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol to Establish Age, Licensing, and other Restrictions, would allow personal use and growing of marijuana by people over age 21. Moody said the marijuana proposal would be misleading to voters, at least in part because of its length.

“There is no way 10 pages of the law can be summarized clearly in 75 words or less and would adequately convey to the voters what exactly they will be voting on,” Moody said in a prepared statement, referring to a word limit for summaries. “That is why I will ask the Florida Supreme Court to seriously consider the sheer length and ambiguous language chosen by the sponsor when reviewing the legality of this proposed initiative.”

Supporters of recreational marijuana, meanwhile, also are backing a separate ballot proposal, which has the support of some of the state’s licensed medical marijuana operators. In addition to getting the Supreme Court to sign off on the ballot wording, backers of proposed constitutional amendments need to submit 766,200 valid petition signatures to the state by a Feb. 1 deadline to take the issues to voters in 2020.