Florida advocates have hit a major milestone in the effort to legalize marijuana in Florida by collecting enough signatures to trigger an official review of the language in their plan by the state’s Supreme Court.
If the Florida Supreme Court approves the ballot measure’s language, the activists — working with the Regulate Florida organization — will need to gather 766,200 signatures to get the cannabis legalization measure on the 2020 ballot. So far, advocates have collected 78,381 signatures. When they hit the 76,000 mark, the judicial and financial impact reviews were triggered.
NORML of Florida, one of the partner organizations in the Regulate Florida effort, announced the news via their Twitter on Monday.
We reached out to Karen Goldstein, executive director of NORML of Florida and vice-chair of Regulate Florida, to get her take on the news.
“We’re pretty confident the Supreme Court is going to be satisfied with our 75-word summary,” Goldstein told Cannabis Now over the phone.
“We’re moving on up. We’re going to keep collecting. We have lots and lots of volunteers out there collecting,” she said. “We get donations every day to help with printing costs and things like that.”
Goldstein says what Regulate Florida really needs is someone with deep pockets to fund the campaign, “because we need to be able to pay petitioners in order to collect the required number of signatures to qualify for ballot access.” She said they’re confident the money is going to come and everyone is in good spirits.
Goldstein has been involved with Florida cannabis reform since helping start her NORML chapter in 2009. Eventually, NORML got involved with People United for Medical Marijuana, who she says “were the first group to start a serious petition for medical cannabis in Florida.” That group would evolve into United for Care, at the time ran by Orlando attorney John Morgan.
In late 2015, while still petitioning for medical marijuana, and minus Morgan, advocates began to work on ballot language for their state, using Colorado’s Amendment 64 as a model. There were a few adjustments to account for the lessons learned since the Colorado market opened up. The group had originally been approached by someone with a legalization plan they thought was a bit far-fetched, and they believed they could come up with something better. They did.
Next came getting the signatures together. Signatures collected in Florida expire after two years, so they relaunched the collection effort in February of last year. Goldstein said the expired signatures came from a separate group before they relaunched the campaign. All the signatures collected since will be valid through the deadline to make the ballot.
Goldstein says her biggest concern in the months to come is fundraising.
“Keeping the coffers full, and actually filling them, is our goal right now,” she said. “As I said, we can’t do it with just volunteers. We need to be able to get out and pay people, we need donations, we need someone or some group with deep pockets, they’ve been described as marijuana millionaires.”
Goldstein said she hopes the people that have made big money in Florida and other cannabis markets will come on board to support the effort.
“They all have their eyes on Florida because we’re going to be a huge industry,” said Goldstein. “We have an enormous population and many of our seniors are very enthusiastic about cannabis, young people are as well.”
Goldstein says those millionaires waiting to make a buck should be supporting efforts to change the law.
We asked Goldstein what has been the response from the local Florida cannabis industry.
“I kind of think they’ve been waiting for the Supreme Court review,” said Goldstein. “So now that we’ve got there, I’m hoping they’re not all going to wait for the results of the review.”
But if the wider industry continues to stay out of the mix, Goldstein says they’ll fall back on their legion of volunteers around the state to keep things moving forward.
“Once we get through the review, if we have funding, we will get to the ballot,” said Goldstein.
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