WTF, Florida!

I’m a full Florida native, having been born and raised in Tampa before adventuring outside this state. When I was a younger stoner I remember visiting an “arcade” that was really just a discreet room in a shopping strip mall stacked with underground vendors – jars of edibles, mushrooms, and ounces of weed…it was the most quantity I had ever seen. 

Fast forward to a few months ago, when I noticed a recently opened Cookies dispensary ten minutes down the road from me. Florida has come a long way, but what a long and strange trip it has been down the road to legalization.

Ironing Out the Details 

In the November election later this year, Florida will have a chance to expand its billion-dollar medical market to full recreational. Amendment Three, also known as the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, would allow adults over the age of 21 or older to buy and possess up to 3 ounces of product. 

This would grant existing licensed medical operators in the state to grow, manufacture, and sell to the new adult-use market. The details don’t clarify if it will open up licenses to new businesses. 

Earlier this year, State Attorney Ashley Moody argued that the Marijuana Legalization  Initiative was misleading and detrimental to the state’s legal market. The Florida Supreme Court overruled the State Attorney’s claims, ensuring Amendment 3 a place on the ballot. 

What You Need to Know Before Voting on Florida’s Amendment 3 

A recent poll surveyed 56% of Florida voters support this recreational bill, just shy of the 60% voter approval required for this Florida Amendment to pass. Not every legal cannabis state requires this voter approval rate, but only three states have been able to exceed it – Arizona, New Jersey, and Maryland. Will Florida follow suit?

Amendment 3 makes no mention of expungement of prior cannabis records or social equity reform. Home growing is not allowed in this initiative either – which is one of the many factors in this bill that have many of us in the Sunshine State conflicted. 

1) Trulieve’s Ticket

Smart & Safe Florida is a campaign in full support of this initiative. The campaign believes cannabis legalization will bring more transparent regulations and improve quality control. 

Over the past year, the campaign raked in $39.55 million solely from the biggest multi-state operator in the FL market: Trulieve. Since the legalization of medical cannabis in 2016, this mega-corporation has grown to have a huge influence on Florida’s market, despite Trulieve CEO Kim River and her husband’s scandalous way to the top (although Florida tends to wear political corruption with style). 

With Trulieve fully funding and supporting the initiative, many consider the company’s support of Amendment 3 a step towards dominating the potential recreational market.

2) Ready to Go Recreational 

    Legalizing adult use of cannabis in Florida would turn the Sunshine State’s already billion-dollar medical program into one of the nation’s largest recreational markets.

    Many brands like Cookies, Jungle Boys, and Planet 13 have moved in as Florida medical dispensaries. Over the years, I’ve often seen someone walk into one of these more “cannabis-branded” stores without a medical card hoping to buy an eighth. 

    The state is ready to go recreational. Whether it will be a fair playing field is truly up to Florida lawmakers – who, in all honesty, don’t have a great track record for doing the right thing. Growing a legal market in Florida will require more than policymakers presuming what’s right for our industry. We need cultivators, processors, business owners, and consumers to speak out with a higher solution. 

    3) “No Home Grow, No Vote” 

      The Amendment’s prohibition of home grow has been a hot debate by many in the FL cannabis community. Many see this detail solely as an advantage to the already successful medical multi-state operators in the industry. 

      Florida stoners who are against the bill argue that waiting until the next election cycle to legalize will give more opportunity and time for smaller businesses to write their own counter-proposal, which can include home grow details.

      Around the same time Smart & Safe Florida was collecting signatures, the Home Cultivation for Medical Marijuana Initiative was campaigning for the right for adult patients to cultivate medical cannabis. This initiative was founded by Wise & Free Florida, a group advocating for patients’ freedom in growing medicine. When a representative from Trulieve was asked about their support of this initiative, their response was a “big thumbs up.” 

      4) A Disgusted DeSantis

      Since Amendment 3 was announced to hit the ballot this year, Florida’s Governor has not been shy about his dislike for psychoactive cannabis and all its potential. Governor Ron DeSantis openly discourages passing the bill, predicting that voters won’t surpass the 60% threshold. 

      Gov. DeSantis has made it clear on his feelings about recreational cannabis, calling the proposal “radical” and arguing that it will “reduce the quality of life” in the state – questioning why people would want to “smell it in the streets when taking your family to dinner.” 

      His complaints about the plant don’t end there though– the latest calculated move from his office threw a curveball that Florida’s industry did not see coming. 

      5) The Hemp Curveball 

        Florida Senate Bill 1698 is a proposed measure going after the Farm Bill loophole. It would ban hemp-derived cannabinoids like Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC. This bill would restrict Delta-9 THC products to 5 milligrams per serving or 50 milligrams per package. It’s clear this bill would severely shake up Florida’s established hemp industry. 

        When SB 1698 was awaiting signature from Gov. DeSantis, it was hinted that his office would unexpectedly veto the bill under a leadership strategy akin to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” – hoping to pit the hemp industry against Amendment 3. Interesting. 

        Soon after the Governor vetoed the bill, claiming, “Small businesses are the cornerstone of Florida’s economy…the bill would impose debilitating regulatory burdens on small businesses and almost certainly fail to achieve its purposes.” 

        Right on, Ron – this veto saves hundreds of mom and pop shops and hemp cultivators. But I’m personally having trouble making sense of a Governor who is in such strong support of hemp but in bold opposition of cannabis. (Does somebody want to tell him both plants come from the same Cannabaceae family?)

        Dazed, Confused & in Disbelief 

        I don’t care whether you are someone who consumes consistently or just ‘know a guy’ you pick up from every once in a while. Whether you smoke or you don’t, understanding what Amendment 3 could mean for Florida is important for your future, our community, and the next generation. 

        If I’m being honest to myself (and publicly to you all), I’m extremely torn about my stance on Amendment 3. Of course, I want it to be legalized in the state for adult use. I would love to see all non-violent criminals and those previously charged for the plant be free with expunged records. It would be incredible to see a market expand and open up jobs and opportunities for others in the community, not just those funded with oversized pockets. Let’s see less shame in the consumer game so I can enjoy my happy hour joint instead of gin, or so my Dad could walk into a dispensary to buy pre-rolls “just for fun.” Let’s shift the negative stigma and focus on better-quality products and resources. 

        Given the complicated nature of cannabis and politics, is all of that really going to happen if this bill were to pass? Or will it only directly benefit corporate cannabis? 

        For many of us Floridians, this feels like our one shot at legalizing cannabis in the state. Is it better to have one foot in the door than to be locked out completely? We’ll see what November brings. 

        The post WTF, Florida! first appeared on High Times.

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