A campaign to get a ballot measure in front of Florida voters to legalize recreational marijuana in 2020 was announced Thursday. It is backed by MedMen, one of the US cannabis industry’s largest companies. The Adult Use of Marijuana initiative would give the go-ahead to adults 21 years and older to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis.
The measure will be promoted via the dispensary chain’s “Make it Legal Florida” political committee, which was registered earlier this month. But it is not unopposed—the effort will face competition from “Sensible Florida,” a campaign started to thwart the proposed ballot measure.
The measure would not explicitly allow Floridians to grow their own cannabis for recreational use. That’s to be expected from MedMen, which was part of the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association when the group sent a memo to Governor Cuomo last December claiming that home grow operations encouraged illegal sales, and put cannabis users in danger by making it difficult to monitor pesticide content. (MedMen was subsequently booted from the association over allegations of sexist and racist comments and financial misdeeds by company leaders.)
MedMen currently has a medical marijuana dispensary in Florida’s West Palm Beach, and a medical delivery service in Orlando. The company’s website says that it has plans in the works for 12 additional locations in the state.
Make it Legal Florida can already count on support from Florida’s only elected Democrat in a statewide position, Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, who herself has a medical marijuana card and supports the voters’ right to choose how marijuana should be regulated in the state. Fried is also heading the charge when it comes to establishing Florida’s hemp industry. In July, she announced the formation of Florida’s Hemp Advisory Committee, whose members include a biochemical expert, multi-generation farmers, members of the business community, and a mother of a medical marijuana child patient.
MedMen’s proposed measure is not the only plan to legalize recreational cannabis in 2020 that has been presented to Florida voters. The Regulate Florida advocacy group has already amassed over 80,000 signatures—enough to require the state’s judicial review—for a ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana.
Since Florida legalized hemp, there has been debate among local law enforcement agencies over whether marijuana possession arrests could be lawfully conducted, given the state’s inability to test for the difference between hemp and psychoactive marijuana. While State Attorney Jack Campbell announced that his office will no longer prosecute such cases, the Northern Florida US Attorney publicized the fact that it may review the passed-over cases for its own prosecution.
Ballot measures have been the major catalyst for marijuana access in expansion in Florida, as they have been in the majority of states that have regulated recreational cannabis. In 2016, voters approved a medical marijuana program that promptly sparked a legal tussle over whether it included smokable forms of weed. (As of five months ago, Floridians were officially allowed to smoke their meds.)
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