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DeSantis Launches ‘Florida Freedom Fund’ To Oppose Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative, As Campaign Reports Millions In New Donations

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has launched a new political action committee to campaign against marijuana legalization and abortion rights initiatives that will appear on the state’s November ballot. At the same time, a newly released campaign finance report shows over $5 million in contributions supporting the cannabis measure have come in over the past two months.

As DeSantis continues his crusade against the marijuana legalization proposal, late last month he started what’s being called the Florida Freedom Fund, aimed at preventing adults from gaining the right to use cannabis. It’s being run by the governor’s chief of staff, James Uthmeier.

A spokesperson for DeSantis told Politico that the PAC “will be championing issues and candidates committed to preserving Floridians’ freedom.” How that stated mission squares with an attempt to restrict adults from accessing marijuana without risking a criminal record and potential jail time is unclear.

According to a Fox News poll released last week, two in three Florida voters support the cannabis initiative—with the issue proving more popular than the governor himself. The survey showed majority support for legalization across the political spectrum, too.

Despite his opposition to the marijuana legalization, DeSantis recently vetoed a bill to ban the sale of intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids in his state. The action came amid reporting that the governor planned to block the hemp prohibition legislation in hopes that the industry would return the favor by financially assisting in his effort to defeat the marijuana initiative.

The governor, who predicted voters will reject the marijuana initiative in November, has argued that the state shouldn’t go beyond the existing medical cannabis program and that broader reform would negatively impact the quality of life for Floridians. The Florida Republican Party also formally came out against Amendment 3 last month.

So far, DeSantis’s PAC hasn’t reported raising any money. The Smart & Safe Florida campaign behind the marijuana initiative, however, reported more than $5.2 million in new contributions from April 1 to May 31, with the bulk of that funding coming from the multi-state cannabis company Trulieve. That’s in addition to the $15 million the campaign raised in the first quarter of the year, a haul that included contributions from other cannabis companies such as Verano Holdings, Curaleaf, Ayr Wellness, Green Thumb Industries and Cresco Labs.

The new first quarter report shows that other marijuana firms are coming to the table in support, including Insa, which donated $144,000, Sunburn parent company Green Sentry Holdings, which chipped in $50,000, and Urban-Gro, which gave $25,000.

The report also shows dozens of small-dollar donations, too.

Trulieve previously contributed about $40 million as advocates worked to collect more than one million signatures to qualify for ballot placement. The company’s CEO, Kim Rivers, said recently that, contrary to the governor’s claims, legalization could actually “improve quality of life” for residents.

She also said that she remains confident DeSantis will respect the will of the people and implement the legalization initiative if voters approve it at the ballot.

Smart & Safe Florida separately announced in March that it was working to form a coalition of veterans to build voter support for the reform, and the campaign has since formally launched that initiative.

The campaign additionally released an ad last week arguing that cannabis currently available on the state’s illicit market is dangerously unregulated.

Economic analysts from the Florida legislature and DeSantis’s office, estimate that the marijuana legalization initiative would generate between $195.6 million and $431.3 million in new sales tax revenue annually if voters enact it. Those figures could increase considerably if lawmakers opted to impose an additional excise tax on cannabis transactions that’s similar to the ones in place in other legalized states.

Here’s what the Smart & Safe Florida marijuana legalization initiative would accomplish:

  • Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis for personal use. The cap for marijuana concentrates would be five grams.
  • Medical cannabis dispensaries could “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute marijuana products and marijuana accessories to adults for personal use.”
  • The legislature would be authorized—but not required—to approve additional entities that are not currently licensed cannabis dispensaries.
  • The initiative specifies that nothing in the proposal prevents the legislature from “enacting laws that are consistent with this amendment.”
  • The amendment further clarifies that nothing about the proposal “changes federal law,” which seems to be an effort to avoid past legal challenges about misleading ballot language.
  • There are no provisions for home cultivation, expungement of prior records or social equity.
  • The measure would take effect six months following approval by voters.

Here’s the full text of the ballot title and summary:

“Allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise; allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories. Applies to Florida law; does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law. Establishes possession limits for personal use. Allows consistent legislation. Defines terms. Provides effective date.”


Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Despite his opposition to the initiative, DeSantis, a former GOP presidential candidate who dropped out of the race in January, previously accurately predicted that the state’s highest court would ultimately allow the measure on November’s ballot.

Unlike the governor, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) said in April that he does believe Florida voters will approve the legalization initiative.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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