A maverick attorney who will steer an initiative to make Florida the fifth state to fully legalize marijuana is also a fierce courtroom ally of medical marijuana patients. But the amendment drive by Regulate Florida, expected to kick off Friday, will not get an endorsement from United for Care.
“United for Care remains entirely dedicated to passing a strong medical marijuana law that serves sick and suffering Floridians,” said Ben Pollara, United for Care’s campaign manager. “We have not and will not take a position on this new amendment.”
South Florida attorney Michael Minardi (right), who won a landmark medical marijuana trial in March, co-authored the amendment and is chairman of Regulate Florida. The proposal legalizes pot use at age 21, allows cultivation in limited amounts, and gives local governments a measure of control.
The initiative, “Regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol,” was approved Wednesday by the state Division of Elections. Only four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — and Washington, D.C., have gone fully legal.
Medical marijuana is legal in 24 states.
“This proposed amendment ... will regulate adult use of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol with age restrictions and guidelines for licensing,” Regulate Florida said in an email. “Regulations for home cultivation are included.”
In March, Minardi successfully defended a Hollywood man who faced five years in prison for growing marijuana. Jesse Teplicki admitted growing pot and told police he smoked cannabis to treat anorexia. A Broward County jury deliberated less than an hour before acquitting Teplicki.
Teplicki was the first defendant in Florida to win a marijuana case based on medical need, according to reports.
Minardi also successfully defended Parrish resident and medical marijuana activist Bob Jordan. In 2013 Jordan was charged with growing pot for his wife, who suffers from ALS.
United for Care is listed on Minardi’s website as one of his organizations.
“I know firsthand that getting on the ballot by petition is a Herculean task that [Regulate Florida] are taking on,” Pollara said. “I wish Karen [Goldstein] and Michael the best of luck.”
Goldstein heads Florida’s chapter of NORML, a longtime marijuana reform movement.
Like United for Care, which has collected roughly 400,000 signed petitions, Regulate Florida will need 683,149 signatures by Feb. 1 and state Supreme Court approval to gain a spot on the 2016 ballot.
Hasta la vista