Will Florida Legalize Recreational Marijuana in 2020? | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


Will Florida Legalize Recreational Marijuana in 2020?

A poll revealed 62 percent of Florida voters support legalizing recreational weed.
A poll revealed 62 percent of Florida voters support legalizing recreational weed. Photo by serdjophoto / iStock.com
More than two years after voting overwhelmingly to legalize medical marijuana, Floridians are still fighting for access. Smoking it remained illegal until just days ago. And in cities such as Miami Beach, officials are hellbent on restricting where and how dispensaries can operate. Other places, including Boca Raton and Coral Springs, have banned them outright.

But activists are hopeful weed might soon become available to everyone aged 21 or older across the Sunshine State. The group Regulate Florida, which made a failed attempt at getting recreational marijuana on the ballot last year, is trying again for 2020.

"State after state is now is seeing that the criminalization of marijuana is more expensive and more detrimental to our society than allowing the regulation and sale of it," says Michael Minardi, chair of Regulate Florida and a Tampa-based attorney.

As of this writing, 57,555 signatures have been collected. The group needs 77,000 to trigger a U.S. Supreme Court review of the ballot language, a step Minardi believes will be reached by the end of April. To actually put the measure before voters, though, they'll need a million signatures by next February. That might seem like a long shot — less than a year out, the group is just 6 percent of the way there — but Minardi nevertheless believes Regulate Florida will succeed.

The groups that got medical marijuana on the 2016 ballot collected most of the required signatures in the months leading up to that election, he says. As for Regulate Florida, Minardi says, Supreme Court approval should help build momentum and bring in the kind of money needed for the effort to succeed. Right now, it's mostly grassroots support.
A poll revealed 62 percent of Florida voters support legalizing recreational weed.
Photo by serdjophoto / iStock.com
"We're pretty confident that we're going to make it and be able to get that funding once we get the Supreme Court review," Minardi says.

A poll released earlier this month revealed 62 percent of voters support legalizing recreational weed. That's just over the 60 percent required to pass an amendment. But if some legislators get their way, the threshold will rise. Two Republicans are trying to raise the standard to 67 percent. The bill was introduced by Sen. Dennis Baxley, a Confederacy-loving, far-right lawmaker who's also trying to force schools to teach so-called alternatives to climate change and evolution

Baxley's bill making it more difficult to change the state constitution won approval this week from the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee. It's worth noting, though, that a similar proposal failed in 2017.

Under Regulate Florida's proposed amendment, marijuana would be legalized for adults aged 21 or older. It would be regulated like alcohol, with ID required for purchase and driving under the influence prohibited. Home cultivation would be allowed, but only "legitimate, taxpaying business people" would be permitted to conduct sales.

Want to help make it happen? You can download a copy of the petition or donate to Regulate Florida online. You can also sign up to volunteer.

"Right now, two things that we need are volunteers and funding," Minardi says. 
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas