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A renewed industry-led effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Florida is underway that wants to put the question to voters at the 2024 ballot.

Prior attempts to qualify an adult-use legalization measure for the ballot in Florida have faced legal challenges, with the state Supreme Court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs.

The organization behind the new initiative, Smart and Safe Florida, claims the language in their proposed amendment to Florida’s cannabis laws will ensure it does not suffer a similar fate.

The ballot initiative has the backing of Florida’s largest medical marijuana company, Trulieve, and the support of the country musicians The Bellamy Brothers, who appear in a promotional video for the campaign.

Should the proposal qualify and gain at least 60 percent of the vote, existing medical cannabis dispensaries would be able to seek a license allowing them to sell cannabis to adults 21 and older. Another provision provides for state agencies to license new marijuana businesses, though this would not be an explicit requirement. Under the current proposal, home cannabis cultivation would be prohibited.

According to the News Service of Florida, Smart and Safe Florida have started the process of gaining approval to collect signatures with the state Division of Elections. The campaign will need to gather approximately 900,000 signatures from voters in order to qualify the measure.

Purchase and possession limits would be set at one ounce of cannabis, of which five grams could be marijuana concentrate products. Unlike previous legalization proposals, the latest initiative contains no social equity provisions aimed at increasing the participation of people with low-incomes in the legal industry or to facilitate expungements of prior cannabis possession convictions.

Trulieve has so far contributed $5 million to Smart and Safe, but CEO Kim Rivers said she expects other industry stakeholders to also donate to the campaign.

Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to legalize medical cannabis in 2016, but broader efforts to legalize recreational marijuana have been thrown out by the state Supreme Court over language the justices claimed was misleading.

“Every initiative has provided some level of learning,” Rivers said to the News Service of Florida. “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.”

Marijuana reform advocates in Florida are concerned, however, that the pendulum has swung too far the other way, especially when it comes to additional marijuana business licensing. Of the 450 medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida, nearly one quarter are owned by Trulieve. If recreational licenses are only available to existing medical cannabis dispensaries, advocates fear the market will become even more consolidated into the hands of a few large players.

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About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

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