The group that is powering a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize recreational cannabis in Florida is halfway to its goal of getting the measure on next year’s ballot.
According to the News Service of Florida, supporters of the proposed amendment “have submitted more than 420,000 valid petition signatures to the state,” and they will “need to submit at least 891,589 signatures to get on the ballot” in 2024.
“Last month, the committee topped a 222,898-signature threshold needed to trigger a crucial Florida Supreme Court review of the proposed ballot wording,” the News Service reported.
The group behind the effort, Smart and Safe Florida, is being heavily backed by the medical cannabis company Trulieve, which has a significant presence in the Sunshine State.
Smart and Safe Florida launched its campaign last summer.
“We came into this with a mission to provide access to high-quality products that are safe and have an appropriate value proposition to give folks control over their—in the original days—medical journey,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said at the time. “I don’t think that changes here. I mean, in effect we are at our core about expanding the opportunity for access to safe legal product, which is what this would allow us to continue to do.”
Trulieve donated $5 million last summer when the campaign launched.
According to the News Service of Florida, the company “had spent $25 million as of the end of January on the Smart & Safe Florida initiative.”
The amendment would legalize the possession and consumption of cannabis for adults in Florida aged 21 and older, and would also set the framework for a state-regulated pot industry.
Specifically, the measure would enable the state’s existing medical cannabis facilities to transition into recreational pot dispensaries.
Florida legalized medical cannabis in 2016.
“One of the interesting aspects here is that we do have [a] medical-cannabis market and we have hundreds of thousands of patients in Florida who are utilizing medical cannabis regularly. So our ability to reach out and to have more direct communication…is a bit unique from a positioning perspective,” Rivers said in the summer.
Activists in Florida have been stymied in their previous attempts to get marijuana legalization over the line, including most recently in 2021, when an initiative was blocked by the state Supreme Court.
“Every initiative has provided some level of learning,” Rivers said last year. “With this initiative, the authors have taken a hard look at the Supreme Court rulings surrounding the previous efforts and taken that into consideration. We believe it’s a very appropriate and narrowly focused amendment that does defer appropriately to the Legislature.”
With a growing population that ranks as the third largest in the country, Florida is a coveted potential market for cannabis investors.
“Florida is definitely a market of interest, especially compared to some of the other more mature, more saturated markets,” said Jade Green, president of cannabis industry consulting firm Next Titan Capital. “The main reason is, everybody has a similar belief that, whatever happens in 2024, eventually adult-use (recreational) cannabis will come to Florida.”
“If you can make it in Florida until rec (recreational marijuana) hits, then you will have a significant advantage in what will be one of the largest cannabis economies not just in the U.S. but in the world,” Green added.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely thought of as 2024 Republican presidential contender, has spoken negatively about marijuana legalization in the past.
“What I don’t like about it is if you go to some of these places that have done it, the stench when you’re out there, I mean, it smells so putrid,” DeSantis said last year.