Why Can’t Florida Get Recreational Cannabis Approved Once and for All?
Florida’s cannabis legislation is nowhere close to being approved. The wait may linger for months or years to come as the State Supreme Court recently dashed the hopes of including a cannabis ballot in this year’s midterm elections. Proponents had planned to leave it to the decision of voters in November. However, lawmakers and anti-cannabis supporters made a case against the measure’s language till the court finally threw it out.
Currently, pro-cannabis lawmakers and advocates are prepared to exercise due diligence to ensure that the next measure is nothing but perfect. Their objective is to make sure the wait is worthwhile for Florida cannabis lovers.
Legalization of Recreational Cannabis in the United States
Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize adult-use marijuana about ten years ago. They provided a blueprint for other states to follow. Within this decade, thirteen other states have established their recreational cannabis industries. However, as in Florida, they are being held back by politicians and an anti-cannabis minority.
Polls show that over half the population of adults in the United States supports cannabis decriminalization and legislation. However, there have been stumbling blocks here and there in approving federal reform, and the states are experiencing the same.
While most of these legal states took their time in approving recreational cannabis policies, Florida is taking too long on the same issue. With a booming medical marijuana industry in the state, many expect the state government to see enough reason to establish the recreational sector and get ahead of other states, but it’s not so. In fact, many are confused about where the Florida government stands on cannabis legislation.
Cannabis Laws in Florida
Florida is a legal, medical cannabis state. The bill was signed into law by the Governor, Ron DeSantis, in 2019. This law permits residents to hold and use up to 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis every month. The drugs must be purchased from licensed cannabis stores and sold to registered patients under the program. Cannabis-related arrests were reduced once this bill was passed, but a few arrests are still going on in the state.
Medical cannabis patients are encouraged to hold onto their physical cannabis possession cards at all times, especially when they’ve been using them, to avoid unnecessary prosecution or fines from law enforcement.
Legalization has been an economic booster for the state, generating millions of dollars annually. The cannabis dispensaries dole out thousands of prescriptions to patients every month. The demand for these drugs is high, as the Florida medical cannabis program prohibits patients from growing their cannabis plants. Hundreds of dispensaries are situated across the state for patients to patronize.
Patients registered under the program suffer from ailments like lupus, migraines, HIV, chronic pain, muscle spasms, canker sores, spinal cord injuries or diseases, and other critical conditions that can no longer be treated with conventional drugs. The bill was first introduced over six years ago and was included on the ballot in the general elections of 2016. Voters approved the bill in a landslide victory of 71.3% to 28.7%. Further amendments led to the bill finally being approved in 2019.
Attempts at Recreational Cannabis Legalization
Floridians have worked so hard to approve a recreational bill in the state, all to no avail. Obstacles—big and small—have popped up at crucial times to put a stop to legalization processes. Many believe that the availability of medical cannabis in the state is enough reason to hope that recreational cannabis will one day be made available to cannabis lovers and advocates.
The biggest obstacle to the legalization of recreational cannabis in the Sunshine State is none other than Governor Ron DeSantis. In previous years, voters have shown massive support for the medical cannabis bill in the state and have requested the approval of a recreational cannabis bill. Still, the governor has maintained chiefly an opposing stance to this development.
John Hudak, Deputy Director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution, confirmed this statement. He mentioned that the government is solidly behind most of the obstacles that have hindered the proposed policy changes on recreational cannabis. He stressed that the situation might remain the same as Ron DeSantis remains the governor. According to the deputy director, the best step is most likely a ballot initiative. This is more or less out of the question, as the state supreme court recently ruled out the proposed ballot measure.
Governor DeSantis has an authoritarian influence on lawmakers in the state, so a change in the state’s leadership could have a favorable outcome for legalizing cannabis recreationally. Now, cannabis advocates have to squarely focus on grassroots mobilization to garner support for recreational legislation shortly.
Predictions Concerning Recreational Cannabis Legalization
Floridians are beginning to accept that the ballot initiative scheduled to be voted on in the midterm elections can no longer be included. The disappointment felt by millions of cannabis lovers in the Sunshine State cannot be overstated. Advocates have announced that all efforts and attention will be directed toward a new measure that will appear on the ballot in the general elections in 2024.
They defended this new date by stating that by then, there would be a blooming plan in place for federal cannabis reforms and regulatory policies in the industry. The Executive Director for the Council for Federal Cannabis Regulations, Sarah A. Chase, clarified that Floridians’ overwhelming support for recreational legislation will be nothing compared to what will be felt in 2024. The demographic groups in favor of legalization will not only turn out in troops to approve the ballot, but they might also vote for a change in the state’s leadership.
A legal recreational cannabis industry will reduce the partial criminalization of people of color over the white population. In addition to this, over $100 million will be pumped into the state economy, causing an improvement in the lives of residents across the state. Of course, the wait is getting tiring, but the gains to be made from this wait in the future would be worth it. One day, hopefully before or after the general elections in 2024, Florida will have a recreational industry of its own.