Marijuana Legalization Backers Are Back With Two Petition Drives

Give these weed fans some credit: They're not quitting. In the 2014 election, Florida voters came painfully close to pushing forward a constitutional amendment that would have legalized medicinal cannabis use across the state; it fell short by just two percentage points.. But as promised, legalization proponents are back with a new petition. They've also begun refilling the war chest with campaign contributions. All this is happening as cities and counties across the state are considering their own decriminalization efforts. 

There are actually two petitions circling right now. One is being proposed by the Florida Organization of Reform. This petition, titled the  Cannabis as a Dietary Supplement for Personal and Medical Use; Funding for Teacher Salaries Act, is pretty self-explanatory. It would reclassify cannabis as a dietary supplement. Sales for anyone 21 years old and up would be subject to a 10 percent sales tax. Funds raised from the tax would go to teachers. 

"This tax may be lowered but not raised above 10%, with revenue strictly and evenly dispersed amongst public school teacher salaries," the proposal reads. "The intent of this revenue is to immediately, constantly, and aggressively increase salary pay of current public teachers. No more than 25% of revenue can be used for new teacher hires in a given year." 

The second petition is being pushed by some familiar characters. People United for Medical Marijuana successfully gathered signatures for the petition that eventually made its way onto the 2014 ballot. The same group is trying again for 2016 with its latest petition. 

This group, spearheaded by Orlando superlawyer John Morgan, is already pocketing significant contributions. The Tampa Bay Times reports that in June, the group raised $293,000 in contributions. About $233,000 of that came from Morgan's own law firm; Coral Gables philanthropist Barbara Stiefel, a major backer of the 2012 initiative, also forked over $40,000 in June. 

At this point, for either proposal to get off the ground, the key now is collecting the ol' John Hancocks. A proposal needs around 680,000 signatures before it can be submitted to the Florida Supreme Court for review, the crucial step before landing on the ballot. 
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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson