An advocacy group has launched a new campaign to bring legal adult-use cannabis to Florida, undeterred by government efforts to crush all attempts at cannabis reform.
Regulate Florida, an advocacy group that runs the Sensible Florida PAC, is launching a new petition to place an adult-use legalization measure on the state's 2022 midterm election ballot. If passed, this initiative would amend the state constitution to allow adults 21 or older to use, possess, and grow cannabis. The amendment would allow adults to grow up to 9 cannabis plants, but would not legalize retail pot sales.
Advocates have been proposing adult-use ballot measures for years now, but state politicians have been working to kill each and every one of them. In 2019, the state passed a law that imposed excessive restrictions on signature gathering for ballot measures, killing an attempt to place a legalization measure on the 2020 ballot. State courts have also rejected several legalization ballot initiatives over minor technical details.
This June, the state Supreme Court blocked Regulate Florida's first attempt to propose a cannabis reform measure. The court ruled that the proposed amendment was “misleading” because it said it would make cannabis use “lawful” in Florida without noting that pot remains federally prohibited.
“A constitutional amendment cannot clearly ‘allow’ or authorize behavior that is criminalized under federal law,” wrote Chief Justice Charles Canady, according to Cannabis Daily News. “A vote summary that suggests otherwise is, in the affirmative, misleading.” The judges also ruled that the measure's intent to legalize “limited use” of cannabis was too vague because “'use' cannot be synonymous with ‘possession’, ‘growth’ or ‘giving’.”
But instead of giving up, Regulate Florida went back to the drawing board and drafted a new version of the initiative that corrects these issues. The new version removes the “limited use” language and explicitly notes that nothing in the amendment “purports to give immunity under federal law,” Marijuana Moment reports.
Regulate Florida is asking voters to print, sign, and mail the new version of the petition. The group must now quickly collect and submit 222,898 valid signatures, after which the state will conduct another judicial and fiscal review on the proposal. If this stage is successful, the group must then submit a total of 891,589 valid signatures before the amendment can finally be placed on the ballot.
Other attempts to legalize personal cannabis use and home cultivation without also establishing a retail sales market have been problematic. Vermont and Washington DC both legalized personal pot use while continuing to ban sales, which has contributed to thriving black market sales and grey market “gifting” economies. Vermont eventually legalized adult-use sales, but Congress has blocked DC from doing the same.
Florida did manage to legalize medical marijuana by way of a ballot measure in 2016, but politicians did their best to gut the law before it could take effect. The state legislature passed a law banning smokable flower, but the state courts ruled that this ban was unconstitutional, and smokable medical pot finally became available in 2019. Florida sold more than $1.2 billion of medical pot last year, but even so, lawmakers are still trying to cripple the program.