Although there was a great deal of hope that Florida would become the first southern state in the nation to end prohibition, the decision has been made to pull the plug on this concept – at least for now. Regulate Florida, the organization working to establish a taxed and regulated cannabis industry in the Sunshine State, recently announced that their inability to collect the necessary signatures before the deadline has prompted them to abandon all hope of legalizing marijuana in 2016.
“The reality is showing us that we’re not going to get the million petitions or signatures verified by February 1,” Michael Minardi, the campaign manager for Regulate Florida, said in a statement. “We had an uphill battle, honestly with getting a million signatures realistically from the end of August until December. We did believe with the movement and the momentum that we had that we could get this done, but unfortunately, we don’t think we’re going to at this point.”
When it was announced earlier this year that Regulate Florida was going on a full-steam mission to legalize a recreational pot market, there was a lot of anticipation that the group was fully prepared to head into battle. Their initiative, a veritable war cry in the ears of the state legislature, was intended to put to rest the ineffective actions of lawmakers who have not only failed at getting a simple CBD-only medical marijuana program off the ground, but have also refused to even consider further legislative action to create a deeper level of policy reform.
Although the majority of the problem with this campaign appears to be in gathering the more than 683,000 signatures needed to earn a spot on the ballot, the real issue is obviously a lack of funding. These types of campaigns are almost impossible to run, even during the signature-collecting phase, without millions of dollars in the bank. In fact, United for Care, the group on course to legalize a comprehensive, statewide medical marijuana program next year, reportedly spent more than $4 million just to generate enough signatures in 2014 to get their failed Amendment 2 in front of voters last November.
For now, Regulate Florida says they plan to regroup, make a few minor adjustments to their proposal and work towards getting the measure on the ballot in 2018.
Yet, all is not lost for next year. United for Care is currently waiting for the Florida Supreme Court to approve the language of their latest proposal aimed at legalizing medical marijuana in the 2016 presidential election. Unlike with their previous effort, none of the organizations, including the Florida Attorney General’s office and the Florida Sheriff’s Association, have come forward to try and stop the group’s second attempt from seeing the light of day.
Once approval is granted, which is expected to happen soon, United for Care will need to collect the remaining 346,000 signatures before February to get the issue in front of voters in 2016.
The real issue is not getting the medical marijuana initiative on the ballot, it actually lies in the group’s ability to gain enough support from the voters to overcome the state’s ridiculous law of needing 60 percent approval for a ballot measure to pass. In 2014, United for Care’s Amendment 2 would have been a winner in most states, but it lost by 2 points – receiving only 58 percent of the vote.
Let’s hope United for Care has a new trick up their sleeves in 2016 to ensure the same doesn’t happen again.
Are you disappointed adult-use cannabis won’t be on the 2016 ballot in Florida? Let us know.