Florida marijuana activists have officially turned their attention to putting adult-use legalization on the state’s 2024 ballot, rather than 2022 as previously planned.
Regulate Florida faced several significant hurdles as they worked to qualify the reform initiative for this year’s ballot. That includes the state Supreme Court rejecting the language of an earlier version, forcing the campaign to go back and rewrite the petitions.
While the group filed a revised version in September and hustled to collect the required signatures, it wasn’t enough.
“When we began this attempt at legalization and home cultivation, we told you that time was short,” the campaign said in an email blast to supporters on Tuesday. “It appears that time has run out for this election cycle, but we have momentum and we have laid the groundwork for a successful campaign for 2024.”
That campaign will start on February 2, Regulate Florida said. Activists will then have two years to first gather 222,898 valid signatures to prompt a judicial and fiscal impact review, and then they will need a total of 891,589 signatures to make the ballot.
As filed this year, the measure would allow adults 21 and older to use and possess cannabis. They could also grow up to nine plants for personal use. The initiative would not provide for retail sales, however.
Starting next month, “professional petitioners will have the time needed to organize and collect signatures, volunteers will have more opportunities to pitch in, and we will have more time to raise the needed funding to attain the goal of ballot access for 2024,” the campaign said.
Advocates reminded volunteers that they should cease signature gathering for the 2022 petition. People who signed up to place legalization on the ballot for this year will have to resign a new initiative.
“We know that with your help, we will succeed,” the group said. “The last three months were a great success and in only 25 days our push for 2024 will begin with more support than ever before!”
Should the reform measure make the 2024 ballot, at least 60 percent of Florida voters would have to approve it for it to be enacted.
Recent polling shows 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.
Pivoting to 2024 may leave the group better positioned to earn the needed supermajority level of support, as demographic groups more likely to favor legalization tend to turn out in higher rates during presidential, rather than midterm, election years.
A separate campaign, Make It Legal Florida, also had their legalization proposal rejected by court last year. That group, which had already collected 556,049 valid signatures at the time of the court’s action, had intended to get legalization on the ballot in 2020 but shifted focus to 2022 due to restrictive signature gathering requirements. It has not publicly announced its intentions for 2024.
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Meanwhile, in the Florida legislature, a lawmaker recently introduced a bill to decriminalize all currently illicit drugs, provide avenues for relief for those with existing drug-related convictions and promote harm reduction services.
In September, the top Democrat in the Florida Senate filed a bill that would require the state to research the medical benefits of psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA.
In the background, two Democrats competing in a primary race to become the next governor of Florida are warring over who supports marijuana legalization more.