Florida activists have ended their campaign to put recreational cannabis legalization on ballot during November’s general election, the Miami Herald reports. Make it Legal Florida organizers plan on using the signed petitions – which are valid for two years – for a 2022 push.
The Division of Elections had verified 295,072 signed petitions from campaign as of Monday; just 38 percent of the total signatures needed by February 1. The organization said the petition gathering effort was hampered by a new elections law that took effect in July which required hourly pay for petition workers and set tighter deadlines for turning in signatures. The group had filed a lawsuit seeking more time to gather signatures, but the case is still tied up in court.
Coincidentally, the day Make it Legal Florida announced they would end their ballot initiative bid, Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes filed a bill that would legalize cannabis for adults. That measure would scrap the vertical integration model used in the state’s medical cannabis program and open up the market for wholesaling by cultivators, processors, and retailers.
The measure also includes low-level cannabis crime expungement and would study the impact of home-grow. Brandes told the Herald that he believes legalization “will enable law enforcement to deal with more serious crimes,” allowing them to have a “greater impact with their limited resources.”
“For me this is a liberty issue. We should give adult Floridians the freedom to make their own choices when it comes to cannabis. It’s not a matter of if, but when, Floridians will have access to adult use marijuana. This bill allows the Legislature to lead on an issue a super majority of Floridians support.” – Brandes, in an interview with Florida Politics
Brandes’ bill would allow individuals 21-and-older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis.
State economists estimate that an adult use cannabis market in Florida could be worth $2 billion, which would, at a 6 percent rate, raise $120 million in taxes for state coffers.
A separate group – Sensible Florida – ended their ballot initiative bid to legalize cannabis for adults in December.