Florida Marijuana Advocates Move Ahead with Legalization Efforts

Multiple cannabis advocacy groups have begun gathering petition signatures for marijuana legalization proposals while the opposition coalescences.

Cannabis advocates in Florida are moving forward with multiple ballot referendums that would legalize recreational use marijuana.

Two marijuana activist groups submitted to the Florida Division of Elections a sufficient number of signatures to mandate that the Florida Supreme Court review the language and trigger a ballot referendum.

The questions are expected to go before voters next year on the 2020 ballot.

Make it Legal Florida submitted 108,435 signatures on its petition that proposes allowing those 21 years and older to possess, use, buy and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and marijuana accessories for personal use.

The Sensible Florida campaign submitted 92,438 signatures for its initiative called Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol.

Both groups submitted well more than the 75,632 signatures needed to trigger action by the state Supreme Court. They now need to collect and provide 766,200 signatures by February to put their respective questions on the ballot next year.

The two recreational use petitions differ in their wording. Most notably, Make It Legal Florida’s question does not contain home grow provisions in its language, while Sensible Florida’s does. The Make it Legal initiative would also require that recreational use sales be made at existing medical marijuana treatment centers. It also calls for more strictly-regulated packaging and marketing tools.

A third pro-cannabis group, Floridians for Freedom, is working on a Florida constitutional amendment called the Right of Adults to Cannabis. The initiative would simply deregulate cannabis with the only stipulation being that adults don’t sell or give the substance to minors. The group continues to aim for Supreme Court Review.

If a recreational use proposal that allows for regulated sales is presented to voters next year and approved, Florida could collect an additional $190 million in tax revenue, according to a state commission that reviewed the issue.

While cannabis advocates are encouraged by the strong support for such a ballot initiative question, some activists are concerned the two could split voters and end up canceling each other out. In 2016, Arkansas voters were presented with two different medical marijuana initiatives, and voters successfully approved one.

Monetary Support for Marijuana

Make it Legal Florida and Sensible Florida are both doing well in fundraising.

The Make it Legal Florida is heavily backed by a company linked to Med Men, while Surterra Holdings, Inc., a dispensary linked to the Multi-State Operator Parallel, has given to the group heavily as well. Both companies have so far contributed more than a million dollars to the campaign. According to a report from Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, as of October 31 Make it Legal Florida has raised $2.7 million in cash and $114,500 in in-kind contributions. So far, the group has spent more than $2.6 million.

Sensible Florida is backed by cannabis lawyer Michael Minardi, a long-time advocate for reform and Legal Director for NORML Florida. According to Minardi, 39,000 people were arrested last year for cannabis-related crimes. Sensible Florida has reported $205,000 in cash and $245,000 in in-kind contributions. The group has spent $160,000 so far.

Opposition Forming

An anti-legalization group called Floridians Against Recreational Marijuana has formed following the successful petition signature submissions from Make it Legal Florida and Sensible Florida.

The group intends to actively oppose the referendums. The prohibitionists have referred to the legalization efforts as a “dangerous” and claim to have grassroots support from patients, veterans, medical professionals, and businesses.

Floridians Against Recreational Marijuana also say they oppose “the mega-marijuana, out-of-state corporate interests” that they believe would come to Florida following legalization.

The campaign manager for the group is Brian Swensen, a senior Republican campaign staffer who helped re-elect Marco Rubio in 2016.

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