Florida’s Legalization of Recreational Marijuana Clears the First Obstacle!

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Proponents of a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana use in Florida have cleared a key threshold toward placing the measure on the ballot in 2024.

As of Thursday, the state Division of Elections website showed that the Smart & Safe Florida political committee, which has been bankrolled by the multistate cannabis company Trulieve, had filed 294,037 valid petition signatures. In order for the court to evaluate the proposed text of the measure, at least 222,898 signatures are needed.

Twenty million dollars, or all but $124,58, of the total amount raised so far, has come from Trulieve, Florida’s largest medical-marijuana business. On December 31st, the committee had spent over $19 million, nearly entirely on petition collection and verification.

The proposal’s language will be reviewed by the Supreme Court to ensure it covers only one topic and does not confuse voters. In 2021, two initiatives on the ballot seeking to legalize marijuana for recreational use were struck down by the courts.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Smart & Safe Florida committee, then the group will have to collect and submit 891,589 valid signatures from registered voters across the state of Florida by the 2024 deadline in order to get on the ballot.

It is proposed under the Adult Personal Use of Marijuana Act that adults over the age of 21 be permitted to “possess, purchase, or use marijuana goods and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingesting, or otherwise.”

Licensed medical marijuana businesses in the state would be able to “acquire, produce, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such items and accessories” under the proposed legislation. At the moment, Florida has 22 legal businesses. Personal marijuana cultivation would be prohibited under the measure.

Changing the constitution requires support from 60% of voters.

Uncertainty is being caused by the Supreme Court’s review.

In June 2021, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that ballot language supporting the Sensible Florida ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana was misleading. Make It Legal Florida’s bid to legalize recreational marijuana was shot down by the courts two months ago.

The present proposal’s supporters have cited the 2021 court decisions as a source of inspiration. Lawmakers will have the final say over how the marijuana sector is organized, according to the plan’s terms.

Several amendments approved by Florida legislators in recent years have made it more difficult for proposals to get on the ballot and pass. This has made the ballot-initiative process an expensive and convoluted enterprise.

Perhaps the most onerous requirement is that petition signers must be paid a flat rate per day or per hour, rather than per signature. Traveling petition circulators who work on initiatives for statewide ballots in multiple states must also register in Florida.

It is estimated that the cost of getting a proposal on the ballot has increased by a factor of two or three due to the ban on per-signature payments and other constraints.

In 2016, for instance, advocates of a constitutional amendment broadly permitting medical marijuana spent less than $14 million to get the proposal into the ballot and ultimately win the approval of over 71% of voters.

Those who advocated for increased expense and complexity can stop talking now. Trulieve’s spokesman Steve Vancore declared the mission successful.

Even before we started, we knew it would be a lot more difficult and costly. And this is why… After spending $20 million and six months canvassing for signatures, he admitted that they were only halfway there.

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