Florida and California have a lot in common. Both states have great weather, sunny beaches, and an abundance of marijuana. Except the Golden State is far more accepting of residents who spark up. In 1996, California was the first state to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Thirteen states have followed Cali's lead. And this November, California voters will have the historic opportunity to legalize marijuana for recreational use in a move that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Legislature hope will generate $1 billion in annual tax revenue.
If the measure succeeds, Florida is in trouble. Despite being the number-one producer of indoor-grown, highly potent ganja, the Sunshine State has the harshest criminal penalties for marijuana possession and trafficking in the nation. Just holding an ounce of weed is considered a felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Two years ago, Gov. Charlie Crist signed the Florida Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act, which made it easier for law enforcement officials to charge marijuana growers, even those with just one plant, with drug trafficking. And during the recently completed legislative session, state senators and representatives unanimously voted to ban the sale of bongs at head shops across the state. Yet there is no evidence these tough laws have decreased marijuana use among Floridians.
In fact, Florida would be better off mimicking California, which will reap the benefits of legalization well past its borders. According to a study completed this past June by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, the largest state in the union could dramatically increase tax revenues through marijuana exports to the other 48 mainland states, which have about six times the number of marijuana users as the Golden State. The RAND report concludes that, post-legalization, California-grown sinsemilla would be more competitively priced (an estimated $1,250 per pound wholesale) than Florida-grown sinsemilla (which averages $3,500 to $4,500 per pound wholesale). If it were to legalize marijuana, the Sunshine State would dominate the market throughout the East Coast.
To show it's high time Florida embrace Mary Jane, New Times has compiled extensive research presented in an easy-to-read format that even the most absent-minded stoner can decipher. We chronicle the voter petition drive in Miami Beach to allow cops to issue tickets instead of tossing people in jail for small amounts of marijuana. You will learn about a Fort Lauderdale executive who is one of only two people in the nation who gets weed from the federal government to treat his rare bone disease. We'll show how state law enforcement officials are losing their war against Florida grow houses, introduce you to a few famous people who have toked, and let some simple facts make the case.