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Florida medical marijuana ballot petition nearing goal, activists say

Alex Menendez / AP file

Marijuana is shown growing in a private backyard garden, in Florida, for medicinal use by a cancer patient in May. State residents are urging backers to sign petitions to get the legalization of medicinal marijuana on the ballot for the early 2014 Florida legislative session.

TALLAHASSEE — Organizers of a Florida campaign for medical use of marijuana say they expect to submit enough voter signatures this week to get the issue on ballots in time for the November election.

State law provides that campaign organizers have to get 683,149 voter signatures validated by the counties before Feb. 1. and almost one in three backers are rejected due to failing to meet requirements. Still, Polls show the petition has a good chance of success

A wealthy Orlando trial lawyer, John Morgan, has committed $3 million to the campaign.

If the petition is approved by 60 percent of voters in November, Florida would become the first southern U.S. state to approve marijuana for medical use, joining some 20 other states.

Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi and the state's Republican political leadership contended before Florida's Supreme Court that the ballot language improperly implies that the state can trump federal restrictions on marijuana and the ballot might allow doctors to prescribe it for non-critical ailments.

But the language of the amendment permits prescriptions for "debilitating conditions" in the judgment of a licensed physician.

Florida's petition drive seems likely to become a major issue in the November gubernatorial election. Morgan is a law partner of former Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who became a Democrat and is running against the state's Republican Governor, Rick Scott.

If Florida's marijuana petition succeeds, advocates say it would boost national efforts to make marijuana laws less restrictive. 

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