Republican Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday he will vote against a proposed constitutional amendment to allow the medical use of marijuana if it makes the 2014 ballot.
"I have a great deal of empathy for people battling difficult diseases and I understand arguments in favor of this initiative. But, having seen the terrible effects of alcohol and drug abuse first-hand, I cannot endorse sending Florida down this path and I would personally vote against it," Scott said through a spokeswoman. "No matter my personal beliefs, however, a ballot initiative would be up to the voters to decide."
The issue will put him at odds with Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, who is seeking the nomination to get his old job back with his new party.
Scott, who is the former CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, has previously said he is opposed to "illegal drug abuse" but hasn't specifically expressed opposition to the effort to allow use of marijuana for medical purposes when prescribed by a doctor.
Scott also supports Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi's effort to keep the proposal off the ballot by arguing the 74-word summary of the proposed amendment is confusing. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, both Republicans, also support Bondi's effort.
Crist's boss, John Morgan of the Morgan & Morgan law firm, is leading a petition drive to put the proposed amendment on the ballot. He's less than 90,000-voter signatures away from the 683,149 needed to put the issue before Floridians. Morgan has spent nearly $3 million on the petition drive.
"No disrespect to the attorney general, but the notion of trying to get it to a point where you and I and the people of Florida don't get the opportunity to make this decision is not what a public servant should be doing. I support it, it's the right thing to do, it is out of compassion and I'm glad John's doing it," Crist said last week.
Morgan didn't return calls to his cellphone seeking comment.
The Supreme Court is considering Bondi's argument to strike the ballot language. The court will not rule on whether it approves of medical marijuana, but rather whether the 74-word ballot summary is misleading or not. Citizen initiatives are limited to 75 words when summing up a proposed constitutional amendment.
Morgan and the group United for Care have until Feb. 1 to reach the signature goal. United for Care said last week it has enough signatures, but they still have to be certified by elections supervisors.