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News

Cannabis Legalization May Be On The Florida Ballot This November

Mary Ekundayo

by Mary Ekundayo

January 23, 2024 11:41 am ET Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho
Cannabis Legalization May Be On The Florida Ballot This November

The state of Florida has been lagging behind many other states when it comes to recreational cannabis legalization, but that may finally be changing this year.

A late 2023 poll could provide insight into upcoming reform in the Florida cannabis market. In 2023, the state’s Division of Elections revealed that over one million Floridians voted to see the adult use of cannabis added to the ballot for imminent general elections. Also, according to officials in the state, Smart & Safe Florida’s recreational cannabis legalization petition had gotten enough signatures to be approved in June.

However, new polls have suggested that recreational cannabis might face a lot of opposition on the 2024 ballot.

Smart & Safe Florida’s Cannabis Proposal 

Trulieve, the state’s largest medical cannabis provider, sponsored the Smart & Safe Florida proposal. According to the secretary of state, a petition to put the initiative on next year’s ballots garnered over 967,000 signatures. If approved, the petition will allow adults aged 21 and above to use and possess about three ounces of weed. 

Kim Rivers, the CEO of Trulieve, made a statement on the matter. “Our investment demonstrates our firm belief that Floridians are ready to experience the freedom to use cannabis for personal consumption, a freedom which is currently enjoyed by more than half of America’s adults” she said. “With over 965,000 validated signatures from nearly every part of our state, it is clear these voters share that belief. We are thrilled the campaign has made this milestone and look forward to seeing this initiative on the ballot next November.”

The Supreme Court’s Approval Is Necessary

Cord Byrd, the Secretary of State, confirmed that the office has validated enough signatures for the petition. Nevertheless, the state’s Supreme Court must still grant their approval. Previously, Florida’s highest court rejected two separate cannabis legalization bids in 2021. Constitutional attorney Will Cooper spoke on the court’s history of invalidating weed proposals. He said, “I think it’s going to be a tough fight, and I think it could go either way. The key is the Supreme Court in Florida. They have a history of being very aggressive and striking down these initiatives relating to cannabis use in Florida.”

Florida’s Attorney General, Ashley Moody, also stated her position: Smart & Safe Florida’s proposal fell short of the legal standards to appear on the ballot. However, the organizers emphasized that the petition was prepared based on the Supreme Court’s rulings in 2021. Rivers explained, “We believe the language, as written, comports with the single subject and clarity requirements under Florida law and look forward to a positive ruling from the Court.”

Governor Ron DeSantis (R), who recently dropped out of the presidential race, spoke on the issue during his final campaign run in New Hampshire.  DeSantis has asserted that the courts might indeed approve it. However, the court system has not confirmed this yet, and it might simply be DeSantis making a prediction or speculation.

Currently, the measure is facing some pushback from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R). Moody successfully blocked marijuana legalization from appearing on the 2022 ballot and is now challenging the measure by claiming that it will mislead voters into thinking they are protected from federal laws. Florida Supreme Court Justices have already expressed that they are unlikely to bar the measure from appearing on ballots for this reason.

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DeSantis, although not a fan of Florida legalization, has stated that he will respect the rights of the voters. In order for the measure to pass, it must receive at least 60% of the vote. Polls show a somewhat divided opinion on whether Florida voters will meet this threshold.

If Smart & Safe Florida’s request eventually qualifies to be on 2024’s ballot, it has to receive a minimum of 60% votes. If it is passed, Florida will become the 24th state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. A poll conducted in March revealed a high probability of this outcome because 70% of registered voters were in full support of Smart & Safe Florida’s legalization efforts.

Medical Cannabis Use in Florida 

There are currently over 840,000 Floridians on medical cannabis treatments, and they purchase the drug from about 600 dispensaries available in the state. Patients can easily get their medical card online in Florida or in person, a notable incentive for Floridians. Even if recreational cannabis were to be legalized in the Sunshine State, Florida medical cannabis patients would likely have access to higher potency strains, larger purchase limits, and serious tax breaks. 

As it stands, medical cannabis is readily accepted, and even though many people have gotten their medical cards online in Florida, some individuals have expressed concerns about the recreational use of marijuana.

Insights From New Polls: Potential Changes in the Florida Cannabis Market

From the new polls, about 45% of voters either agree or strongly agree that they are “worried that medical cannabis is being abused.” Relatedly, when asked whether medical cannabis should be taxed, 44% of voters either strongly or somewhat agree, 44% disagree, and 11% are unsure. Responding to their view on “legalizing recreational cannabis.” 60% agree, 29% disagree, and 11% are not sure. 

Even if the Supreme Court passes the petition, it is still up to voters. As explained by Neely, with the minimum requirement of 60% voter approval, the request to legalize recreational cannabis has a slim chance of passing based on current statistics. The growing distrust of the medical use of cannabis also doesn’t help the situation. Neely further said that “If it makes it onto the ballot, it’s a crap shoot. We don’t really know the answer from these data in terms of how that vote might turn out.”

What If Smart & Safe Florida’s Weed Initiative Is Passed

If approved, adults over 21 can purchase up to an ounce of cannabis products at a time, with five grams of that amount allotted to marijuana concentrates. Existing medical cannabis companies, such as Trulieve, could start selling recreational marijuana, but it remains unclear whether lawmakers would approve other businesses to open dispensaries. The current proposal does not permit home cultivation.

Medical cannabis dispensaries will be able to “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute mar products and cannabis accessories to adults for personal use.” Also, the legislature has the freedom to enact “laws that are consistent with this amendment.” However, the initiative does not allow for home cultivation, social equity, or annulment of prior weed records. Another point to note is that the law will be in effect six months after voters’ approval.

The bill would amend Florida’s constitution and make it the 25th state to legalize recreational cannabis. The courts must make their decision on the measure by April 1st.

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