Florida marijuana reform advocates have collected enough raw signatures to qualify a legalization initiative for the state’s 2024 ballot, the campaign’s top financial supporter announced on Wednesday.
The cannabis company Trulieve, which is financially backing the Smart & Safe Florida campaign, announced that advocates have “gathered sufficient raw signatures for inclusion on the November 2024 ballot.”
— Trulieve_IR (@Trulieve_IR) May 10, 2023
The Florida Division of Elections updates the ballot signature counts at the end of each month, so the current total isn’t reflected yet. But the last update showed that the campaign was about 94 percent of the way though, so it makes sense that advocates would’ve closed that gap at this point.
To make the ballot, activists will need to turn in 891,523 valid signature. So far, the state had verified 786,688 as of the end of April.
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 process, which is still pending, begins with a referral of the language from the state attorney general.
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 measure will qualify for ballot placement assuming it has enough valid petitions.
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 $30 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.
“With 22 million residents and 138 million annual tourist visits, we believe Florida will be a top legal cannabis market, reaching $6 billion in annual revenue,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said.
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 support legalizing marijuana.
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.
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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.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.