Advocates on Monday filed a proposed constitutional amendment to allow adult use of marijuana by people 21 and older in Florida.
Trulieve, the state’s largest medical-marijuana operator, and country-music legends The Bellamy Brothers are backing the effort, reports the News Service of Florida.
The Tallahassee-based Trulieve contributed $5 million to the effort to get the measure on the 2024 ballot. Also expected to support the campaign are other multi-state medical marijuana corporations operating in Florida.
Florida Went Medical In 2016
Florida voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment to legalize medical Cannabis. State physicians have authorized nearly 800,000 patients to use it.
While past adult-use Cannabis initiatives have failed in Floria, supporters of the new proposal say they’re confident it will satisfy Florida Supreme Court requirements to make it onto the ballot. They believe it will also gain voter support.
“It’s all about improving access,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers told The News Service of Florida in an interview. “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. 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.”
Adult Personal Use of Marijuana
The “Adult Personal Use of Marijuana” proposal would allow people 21 or older “to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise.”
The proposed amendment also would allow “medical marijuana treatment centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell and distribute such products and accessories.”
The proposal could end Florida’s requirement “medical marijuana treatment centers” conduct everything from cultivation to retailing. Lawmakers established the industry’s “vertical integration” system after the 2016 amendment passed. But critics say it makes operations too expensive for smaller operators.
Florida Legislature Will Have The Final Say
Sunshine State lawmakers would still have final say on how the industry is structured even if voters approve legalization. “Nothing in this amendment prohibits the Legislature from enacting laws that are consistent with this amendment,” the proposal states.
Rivers said the nod to the Legislature was intentional. Florida requires that proposed constitutional amendments are limited to single subjects. The Florida Supreme Court reviews such proposals to make sure they comply with the requirement.
“Any amendment in the state of Florida has to be very careful in terms of single subjects with this court. And so I do know, speaking with the lawyers, that there was a very high focus on keeping this really focused around authorizing adult use and then allowing the Legislature to develop policy,” she said.
David Bellamy Heads Smart & Safe Florida
Musician David Bellamy heads the the Smart & Safe Florida political committee. The proposal it supports which would need nearly 900,000 petition signatures to make it onto the 2024 ballot. Advocates filed the requisite paperwork for the committee on Monday at the Florida Division of Elections.
The Bellamy Brothers are musicians and Florida natives who own a ranch in Pasco County. They already joined forces with Trulieve for a line of marijuana products.
The musical duo are in their 70s. They say that “Florida is ready” for adult-use marijuana.
“As we travel the country, we see the benefits of adult use and as Florida residents we love the ‘freedom state’ moniker … [We] believe that Florida needs to join the millions of Americans whose adults are free to use cannabis without fear of being incarcerated,” they said in an email.
Florida Supreme Court Rejected Two Cannabis Initiatives Last Year
The Florida Supreme Court last year rejected two adult-use marijuana initiatives.
A political committee called Sensible Florida backed one such proposal, framed as regulating Cannabis similarly to alcohol. But in a 5-2 decision in June 2021, the court ruled that the ballot summary would be misleading to voters. Attorney General Ashley Moody and the Florida Chamber of Commerce were among the prominent opponents of that initiative.
The court in April 2021 also rejected a separate adult-use Cannabis initiative, backed by the Make It Legal committee. The court, in that case, claimed for different reasons that the proposal would mislead voters.
“Every Initiative Has Provided Some Level Of Learning”
Attorneys scrutinized the court’s past rulings when crafting the latest proposal, according to Rivers. “Every initiative has provided some level of learning,” she said.
“With this initiative, the authors have taken a hard look at the Supreme Court rulings surrounding the previous efforts and taken that into consideration,” Rivers said. ”We believe it’s a very appropriate and narrowly focused amendment that does defer appropriately to the Legislature.”
While Trulieve is contributing the seed money for the effort, Rivers said she expects the proposal will draw support from other industry leaders.
“While we’re happy to provide investment, we also do believe that there are a lot of folks who are very passionate about this and I expect to have a great engagement across the community,” she said.
Advocates Hope Cannabis Supporters Will Coalesce Around This Amendment
After the Supreme Court rejected its proposal last year, Sensible Florida filed another initiative for the 2024 ballot that would allow people 21 or older to use marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants. Trulieve contributed $250,000 to that committee. But it has still collected fewer than 23,000 petition signatures.
However, it’s expected that supporters of legalizing adult use will be galvanized to coalesce around the new amendment filed Monday.
There’s a steadily growing number of medical marijuana patients in Florida, and attitudes toward pot becoming increasingly favorable, Rivers said. And she expects a “large grass-roots effort” to drum up support for the adult-use proposal.
“The Idea Of Putting Adults In Jail And Ruining Their Lives For Using Cannabis Is Crazy”
“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,” Rivers said. ”So our ability to reach out and to have more direct communication … is a bit unique from a positioning perspective.”
The Bellamy Brothers also maintain that allowing adults to use Cannabis will help save money for the state. Not to mention, it will certainly help people who have been wrongfully imprisoned for possession of cannabis.
“We see it every day and hear it from everyone we speak with, that the idea of putting adults in jail and ruining their lives for using cannabis is crazy,” the musical duo said in an email. ”We have also read the polls and see consistent and strong support for an effort to allow adults to use cannabis.”