Florida’s Marijuana For Recreational Initiative Overcomes Its First Obstacle!

With more than enough petition signatures, supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana for recreational use have cleared the first barrier to getting the issue on the ballot in 2024. The measure will now be reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court. According to the state Division of Elections website, the “Smart & Safe Florida” political organization had filed 294,037 valid petition signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

The committee is funded by the multistate Cannabis operator Trulieve. The proposed language of the measure must receive at least 222,898 signatures before the court will evaluate it, which is an important legal step. All but $124.58 of the money raised so far has been donated to the cause by Trulieve, the biggest medical marijuana business in Florida.

By the end of the year, the group had spent over $19 million, almost all of which went toward collecting and verifying petitions. The Supreme Court will examine the proposal’s wording to ensure that it only covers one topic and won’t deceive voters. Two referendum initiatives to legalize marijuana use for recreational purposes were rejected by the justices in 2021.

Florida's Marijuana For Recreational Initiative Overcomes Its First Obstacle!

A total of 891,589 valid signatures must be submitted by the Smart & Safe Florida committee in order to appear on the ballot in 2024, with a specific percentage of those signatures originating from at least half of the state’s congressional districts.

The “Adult Personal Use of Marijuana” plan would permit those who are 21 years old or older to “possess, purchase, or use marijuana goods and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingesting, or otherwise.”

The proposal also permits “the acquisition, cultivation, processing, production, sale, and distribution of such items and accessories” by any state-licensed medical marijuana business. There are presently 22 licensed operators in Florida. Growing marijuana for personal use would not be permitted under the measure. Constitutional amendments must receive 60 percent of the vote to be approved.

Florida's Marijuana For Recreational Initiative Overcomes Its First Obstacle!

Due to a number of modifications made by Florida lawmakers in recent years to make it more challenging for proposals to be placed on the ballot and approved, the ballot-initiative process is an expensive and demanding procedure. The prohibition on petition gatherers being paid per signature is arguably the most onerous because it requires employees to be given a daily or hourly salary.

Petition gatherers must also register with Florida. They frequently move from state to state collecting signatures for ballot initiatives. According to industry experts, the cost of getting a proposition on the ballot has increased by more than a factor of two as a result of the ban on per-signature payments and other conditions.

For instance, proponents of a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in 2016 spent less than $14 million to get the proposal on the ballot and pass it with more than 71 percent of the vote. After beginning its effort in August, Smart & Safe Florida, in contrast, has already surpassed that sum.

Florida's Marijuana For Recreational Initiative Overcomes Its First Obstacle!

“Those who intended to increase the price and the difficulty can drop the mic. As a representative for Trulieve, Steve Vancore told The News Service of Florida, “mission achieved, in a sense. According to Vancore, the existing petition-gathering procedure is “extremely time-consuming and quite complex.”

Even we had no idea how much more expensive and difficult it would be when we first started. Because of this, Twenty million dollars, six months on the ground, and just halfway there (in terms of signatures),” he remarked.

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