FORT MYERS, Fla. - The clock is ticking in the fight to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. A deadline is just weeks away to potentially get this controversial issue on the November election ballot. But, as WINK News found, thousands of signatures may be worthless.
"Would you like to sign a petition today if you haven't already?" Allen Brown asks people as they walk into the Lee County Elections building.
Supporters across Florida are pulling out all stops as the February 1st deadline draws closer. More than 683,000 signatures are needed for the medical marijuana issue to get on the election ballot. WINK News checked and unofficially, the state has counted more than 375,000.
In Lee County more than 19,000 signatures have been approved while Collier and Charlotte have approved around 4,000 each.
But, we're finding that thousands of signatures are also being thrown out. Elections officials say some people who signed are not registered voters, didn't list the date or tried to fill out multiple petitions..
"It's just slowing down the process," Brown said. "People are signing up and it's not legible so they can't count those petitions,"
With three weeks to go, it may be an uphill battle. In the time we were outside the Lee County Elections office, we heard more people answer "no" than "yes." But for those who say agree, it's not always for their own benefit. "I have a very close friend who suffers from excruciating back pain," one woman told us. "I think it should be available to them to relieve the pain."
Even if they collect the required signatures, their efforts could be for nothing. The fate of the initiative remains in the State Supreme Court. Attorney General Pam Bondi challenged the language of the petition, worried it would mislead voters and would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for any condition. She maintains that whether or not it passes, the medical use of marijuana is a federal criminal offense. The State Supreme Court has until April to decide.