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Nearly 70 Percent Of Florida Voters Support Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative, With Majorities Of Every Demographic In Favor



Nearly seven out of ten registered Florida voters say they support a marijuana legalization initiative that may appear on next year’s ballot depending on the outcome of a legal challenge, with majorities of every demographic surveyed in favor of the reform.

The University of North Florida (UNF) poll, released on Thursday, shows that 67 percent of voters back the legalization proposal—which would be more than enough to meet the state’s steep 60 percent voting threshold to pass ballot measures.

There was majority support for the issue across each political, gender, race and age demographic that was reported in the survey.

Democrats were the most supportive, at 78 percent, compared to Republicans (55 percent) and non-partisans/others (69 percent).

Young people between the ages of 18 and 24 strongly embraced the reform, with 86 percent in support. But even 51 percent of those aged 65+ said they backed legalization.

“Unlike previous surveys when we simply asked if folks support or oppose legalization of recreational marijuana, this time we gave respondents the specifics of this proposed amendment,” Michael Binder, faculty director of UNF’s Public Opinion Research Lab, said in a press release. “Yet again, it looks like it has a good chance of passing, if the measure makes it through the courts, and that is a very big ‘if.'”

The poll involved interviews with 716 registered Florida voters from November 6-26, with a margin of error of +/-4.37 percentage points. An earlier survey from UNF that broadly asked voters about cannabis legalization without giving specifics about the ballot initiative similarly showed that 70 percent were in favor of the reform.

The legalization initiative from the Smart & Safe Florida campaign is facing a legal challenge from state Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) in the Florida Supreme Court, which held oral arguments in the case earlier this month.

The state official’s main argument is that the ballot measure is affirmatively misleading, in part because she says voters would not be able to understand from the summary that marijuana would remain federally illegal even if Florida moved to legalize.

The campaign and supporters have maintained that the court must respect the intent of the citizen initiative process and allow voters the opportunity to decide on the issue after they turned in nearly one million signatures for ballot placement that have been certified by the state.

Moody made the same argument about misleading ballot language against a 2022 legalization measure, and the Supreme Court subsequently invalidated it.

In order to get on the ballot, an initiative must have valid signatures from registered voters totaling at least eight percent of the district-wide vote in the most recent presidential election in at least 14 of the state’s 28 congressional districts—in addition to the statewide number needed. The marijuana campaign has met the threshold in exactly 14 districts, according to the recently updated state data.

Trulieve has contributed more than $39 million to the Smart & Safe Florida campaign to date. As discussed in oral arguments, Moody has accused the company of supporting the measure in order to have a “monopolistic stranglehold” on the state’s cannabis market.

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.

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.

Separately, economic analysts from the Florida legislature and the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) 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. And 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.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 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.

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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.”

Meanwhile, a separate campaign is actively collecting signatures for a different initiative to give adults a medical marijuana home cultivation option that would not be provided under the Smart & Safe Florida legalization measure. Signature gathering kicked off for the home grow initiative in August, with petitions available online and at certain dispensaries.

The legalization campaign shouldn’t expect to receive support from DeSantis, a GOP 2024 presidential candidate, who said at a recent event that he would not move to federally decriminalize cannabis if elected.

DeSantis signed a bill that took effect over the summer that added restrictions to medical marijuana advertising and manufacturing, prohibiting any products or messages that promote “recreational” cannabis use, while adding more stringent eligibility requirements for workers in the industry.

He also signed legislation in July banning sales of any consumable hemp products—including cannabis “chewing gum”—to people under 21, an expansion of an existing prohibition on young people being able to purchase smokable hemp.

Additionally, the governor approved a bill in June that expressly prohibits sober living facilities from allowing residents to possess or use medical marijuana, even if the patient is certified by a doctor to legally use cannabis therapeutically in accordance with state law. All other doctor-prescribed pharmaceutical medications may be permitted, however.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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