A new recreational marijuana ballot campaign begins in Florida

TruLive, the state’s largest medical-marijuana operator, and country-music giants The Bellamy Brothers are backing a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the recreational use of marijuana by people 21 or older.

The proposed amendment was filed Monday with the State Division of Elections, with Tallahassee-based TruLive contributing $5 million to an effort to get the measure on the 2024 ballot. Other multi-state medical marijuana operators are also expected to support the campaign.

Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment to widely legalize medical marijuana in 2016, and nearly 800,000 patients have been authorized for the treatment.

While previous recreational-marijuana initiatives in the state have failed, proponents of the new proposal say they believe it will satisfy the Florida Supreme Court’s requirements to make it on the ballot and garner support from voters.

“It’s all about improving accessibility,” TruLive CEO Kim Rivers told Florida’s news service in an interview. “We came into this with the mission of providing access to high quality products that are safe and have a fair value proposition to give people control over their – in their original days – medical travel. I don’t think that changes here. I mean, really we’re at our core about expanding the opportunity for access to a secure legal product, which is what it will allow us to continue to do.”

The “Adult Personal Use of Marijuana” proposal would allow people 21 or older to “possess, buy, or use marijuana products and marijuana goods for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingesting, or otherwise.”

The proposed amendment, which was provided to the news service, would also “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 eliminate the state’s current requirement that medical marijuana businesses — called “medical marijuana treatment centers” — conduct all aspects of operations, from farming to retailing. Lawmakers instituted a “vertical integration” system of industry after a 2016 amendment was passed, but critics say it makes operations overly expensive for small entrepreneurs.

If voters sign off on the new proposal, lawmakers will still have the final say on how the industry is structured.

“Nothing in this amendment precludes the legislature from making laws in conformity with this amendment,” the motion says.

Rivers said the legislature was deliberately approved and pointed to a requirement that the proposed constitutional amendment be limited to single subjects. The Florida Supreme Court reviews proposals to ensure they comply with the requirement.

“Any amendment in the State of Florida has to be very careful with this court in the matter of single subjects and so I know, speaking with attorneys, that authorizing adult use has a lot to do with keeping it really focused. There was more focus and then allowing the legislature to develop the policy,” she said.

The Smart and Safe Florida political committee, headed by musician David Bellamy, is backing the proposal, which would require nearly 900,000 petition signatures to make it onto the 2024 ballot. The paperwork for the committee was filed with the election department on Monday.

The Bellamy brothers, Florida natives who own a ranch in Pasco County, have already joined forces with Trulive for a line of cannabis products.

The musical duo, who are in their 70s, told the news service that “Florida is ready” for recreational marijuana.

“As we travel the country, we see the benefits of adult use and as Florida residents we love the nickname ‘Freedom State’ and believe Florida needs to join the millions of Americans whose Adults are free to use cannabis without fear of being imprisoned,” he said in an email responding to questions from the news service.

The Florida Supreme Court struck down two recreational pot initiatives last year.

A proposal supported by the political committee Sensible Florida was framed as regulating marijuana in the same way as alcohol. But in a 5-2 decision in June 2021, the court ruled that ballot summary would be misleading to voters. Attorney General Ashley Moody and the Florida Chamber of Commerce were among the opponents of the initiative.

In April 2021 the court also rejected a separate recreational-marijuana initiative supported by the Make It Legal Committee, saying the proposal would mislead voters.

Rivers said lawyers have scrutinized the court’s rulings when preparing the latest motion.

“Every initiative has provided some level of education,” she said. “With this initiative, the authors have taken a close look at the Supreme Court’s rulings around previous efforts and took this into account. We believe this is a very appropriate and narrowly focused amendment that the legislature will make.” appropriately adjourns.”

While TruLive is contributing seed money to the effort, Rivers said he hopes the proposal will garner support from other industry leaders.

“While we are pleased to provide the investment, we also recognize that there are a lot of people who are very passionate about it and I look forward to a great engagement throughout the community,” she said.

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. will allow. Trulieve contributed $250,000 to the committee, which has collected less than 23,000 petition signatures.

But it is expected that supporters of authorizing adult use will turn around the amendment filed on Monday.

With an ever-increasing number of medical marijuana patients in the state and attitudes toward pot becoming increasingly favorable, Rivers said he expects a “larger grassroots effort” to support the adult-use proposal.

“One of the interesting aspects here is that we have [a] medical-cannabis market, and we have hundreds of thousands of patients in Florida who are using medical cannabis on a regular basis. So our reach and the ability to have more direct communication… is a bit unique from the point of view of the situation,” she said.

The Bellamy brothers also believe that allowing people to use marijuana would help save money for the state and help those who have been “wrongfully” imprisoned for possessing cannabis.

“We see this every day and hear from everyone we talk to that the idea of ​​putting adults in jail and ruining their lives for using cannabis is insane. We also read polls and We see consistent and strong support for the effort to allow adults to use cannabis,” he said in the email.

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