One of the biggest pushes to legalize recreational marijuana was predicted to take place this year in Florida. All of the public opinion polls have indicated for a minute that there is more than enough backing in the Sunshine State to get a constitutional amendment approved, allowing pot to be sold to adults 21 and over. But wouldn’t you know it, the weasels of the state’s legislative system pulled some back-biting shenanigans that brought a seemingly unstoppable charge to a grinding halt. Cannabis advocates have been forced to throw in the towel on their mission to establish a taxed and regulated pot market in 2020. It’s a severe blow to the cause, too, one that will undoubtedly slow the progress of pot reform all across the United States.
Although early reports suggested that the southern pot force was strong, Make It Legal Florida, a gang of pot advocates hoping to get a recreational law passed in the November election, has announced that it can do no more. The group was moving along swimmingly in the last part of 2019 — collecting signatures like bare-knuckle brawlers with nothing to lose. But a recent change in the law regarding ballot initiatives, one that makes it more challenging to get through the approval process, ended up taking them down. And not just for a second either, we’re talking about a KO.
“With the support of over 67 percent of Florida voters, Make it Legal Florida is proud to have gathered more than 700,000 signed petitions in the effort to bring adult-use cannabis to the Sunshine State,” the group announced in a statement. “The narrow timeframe to submit and verify those signatures has prompted our committee to shift focus to now gain ballot access in 2022.”
It’s an unfortunate turn of events, no doubt. Because while the group claims it will be back to exact their revenge on the legislative herky-jerky that screwed them in 2020, the upcoming presidential election was the perfect platform to see that legal weed made its mark in Florida. Statistics have shown that marijuana legalization initiatives tend to attract more fanfare when the presidency is at stake than any other election. So, while this doesn’t mean that Make It Legal Florida will meet its all-damning doom once again if it makes another run in a couple of years, it sure doesn’t do it any favors.
But we might be getting ahead of ourselves here and betting on a horse that has yet to be born. The main takeaway, for now, is that Florida voters will not be casting ballots in 2020 for legal marijuana. The state will just need to be content with the medical marijuana program it approved back in 2016 a little longer. That is unless the suits in Tallahassee have the guts to make something happen.
Some marijuana legalization bills are being considered at the State Capitol.
Republican Senator Jeff Brandes is pushing a bill this session that aims to legalize the leaf for recreational use. It’s the same kind of scheme that was passed last year in Illinois, one that comes with retail pot sales for adults 21 and over and the expungement of low-level marijuana convictions. The proposal would also launch an exploratory mission to see whether home grow would be something to entertain down the road. A companion measure was filed in the House by Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith. Yet, it remains to be seen whether state lawmakers will take it upon themselves to address this issue, or leave it for another group of cannabis advocates to take on.
It would have been beneficial to the nation to have Florida as one of the states where weed is legal. It’s a heavy-hitting swing state that could have had some political influence when it comes to ending prohibition at the federal level. But, as the kids say today, it is what it is, so that’s that.
But there is still the possibility of some legalization action coming through this year in other areas. One of the unsung hopes for 2020 is New Mexico, where the new governor and lawmakers are said to be working together to legalize adult use. We could also see New York stop playing games and put a recreational pot bill on the books. Of course, New Jersey voters are slated to voice their opinion on legal weed in the November election. Besides those, cannabis hopefuls can also expect to see some moves in Vermont and Connecticut to expand the nation’s recreational marijuana markets. We should know in the next few months which of these are serious contenders.
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