Florida Marijuana Activists Close In On Signature Requirement To Put Legalization On 2024 Ballot
Florida marijuana advocates have collected 841,130 signatures for a marijuana legalization ballot initiative as of the end of April—about 94 percent of what’s required to put the issue before voters next year.
Based on monthly signature data reported by the Florida Division of Elections, which updates petition counts on the measure at the end of each month, it seems that the legalization campaign is well positioned to reach the 891,523 signature mandate by the end of this month.
At the end of January, the measure cleared an initial major hurdle, getting enough signatures to initiate a state Supreme Court review of the measure’s language. That analysis is still pending.
By the end of February the campaign had crossed the symbolic threshold of 420,000 signatures. That rose to 635,961 valid signatures as of March.
The Florida Supreme Court will be looking to make sure that the text of the proposal doesn’t violate the state Constitution’s single subject rule and isn’t affirmatively misleading to voters. If the court determines that the initiative meets those standards, the campaign will just need to turn in enough signatures to qualify for ballot placement—which it is very close to doing at this point.
Past attempts to place adult-use legalization on the Florida ballot have been challenged and rejected by the court.
Smart & Safe Florida, which filed the legal cannabis measure last summer, is being funded almost entirely by the state’s largest medical cannabis operator Trulieve, which provided initial seed money to get the campaign off the ground and has now contributed at least $25 million to the effort.
If approved, the measure would change the state Constitution to allow existing medical cannabis companies in the state like Trulieve to begin selling marijuana to all adults over 21. It contains a provision that would allow—but not require—lawmakers to take steps toward the approval of additional businesses. Home cultivation by consumers would not be allowed under the proposal as drafted.
Under the proposal, adults 21 and older would be able to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, only five grams of which could be marijuana concentrate products. The three-page measure also omits equity provisions favored by advocates such as expungements or other relief for people with prior cannabis convictions.
A poll published in March found that 70 percent of Florida voters back the idea of passing a constitutional amendment to enact legalization.
While Florida voters approved a medical cannabis constitutional amendment in 2016, subsequent attempts to place broader legalization on the ballot have been rejected by the state Supreme Court, which has ruled that the language of proposed measures by Make It Legal Florida and Sensible Florida were misleading, invalidating them.
Here’s what the Smart & Safe Florida marijuana legalization initiative would accomplish:
Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to one ounce 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.”
Should the cannabis reform measure make the 2024 ballot, at least 60 percent of Florida voters would have to approve it for it to be enacted.
An earlier poll released in 2021 found that a majority of Florida voters (59 percent) support legalizing cannabis for adult use, so that’s a slim margin that shows that advocates will have their work cut out for them if the measure qualifies.
Meanwhile, activists that aren’t directly involved in the Smart & Safe Florida campaign said last year that they were exploring plans to have voters decide on what they hope will be a complementary measure permitting adults to grow their own cannabis at home.
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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.