Marijuana legalization is growing throughout the United States and it does not seem to be losing speed. The fight continues as more and more states jump on the cannabis bandwagon. Floridans have put together a team to lead the way.
Florida marijuana activists have launched a voter initiative called “Regulate Florida,” which would amend the Florida constitution to legalize and regulate adult use of marijuana in the Sunshine State.
If the Regulate Florida measure makes it on to the November 2016 ballot, Florida voters could face two decisions about the future use of marijuana: one to legalize medical use and another to legalize adult use. The Florida Legislature would be in charge of taxation in either case.
Regulate Florida’s multi-page document “is completely drafted,” said Bill Wohlsifer, a Tallahassee attorney who is the director of legal affairs for the political committee in charge, Sensible Florida. The proposed amendment, said Wohlsifer, “is very comprehensive. It doesn’t leave that much for the Legislature to do.”
Regulate Florida, with details to come as early as next week, would license growing, processing, distribution and retail sales of cannabis and would make possession legal, he confirmed.
“Part of our plan is to protect children by limiting the availability of illegal marijuana,” said fellow director Karen Goldstein, who heads the Florida chapter of NORML, a national marijuana reform group formed in 1970.
Chairing the group is Michael Minardi, a Stuart-based defense attorney specializing in cannabis cases. He successfully defended Parrish residents Bob and Cathy Jordan in 2013 after Bob Jordan was arrested for growing marijuana on behalf of his wife, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
To be sure, to become a constitutional ballot initiative, Regulate Florida has major obstacles in front of it, just like those faced by the United for Care, which has resurrected its medical marijuana initiative and is aiming for November 2016 ballot boxes.
The Regulate Florida initiative is now facing scrutiny by the Florida Division of Elections. Later, the initiative will need to pass Florida Supreme Court inspection. Then it will need a total of 683,000 verified voter signatures.
That would put the recreational measure on the same November 2016 ballot with a much more limited medical marijuana proposal being put forward for the second time by United for Care, a group backed by Orlando attorney John Morgan, well known for his “For the People” motto.
“If anything it may drive some voters who are excited about legalizing marijuana who aren’t that excited about medical marijuana,” said Ben Pollara, executive director of United For Care.
While there are no relevant polls on recreational marijuana in Florida, Pollara says he believes public support for medical use remains just as high as it did before last year’s election cycle, in the upper 60 percent to lower 70 percent range.
Pollara said he expects to have all his required signatures on the United For Care petition by Christmas.