Three in five Florida adults say they support legalizing marijuana, a new poll finds as activists wait to see whether the state Supreme Court will allow a legalization initiative to appear on the ballot next year.
The survey from the University of South Florida (USF) and Florida Atlantic University (FAU) showed that 60 percent of Floridians are in favor of adult-use legalization, which is exactly how much support the proposed initiative will need to receive at the polls to pass if it’s ultimately placed on the ballot.
Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority (83 percent) back medical cannabis remaining legal in the state.
For recreational marijuana reform, Democrats were most supportive at 71 percent, followed by independents 59 percent and Republicans (50 percent).
Medical cannabis enjoys even stronger bipartisan support, with 87 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of independents and 78 percent of Republicans backing legal status.
The poll also found that 45 percent of respondents believe medical cannabis is being “abused,” 39 percent said it’s “too easy to obtain” and 40 percent said there should be “harsh penalties” for sharing medical marijuana. Another 44 percent said the state should tax medical cannabis, compared to 45 percent should said it should not.
The survey involved interviews with 600 Florida adults from August 10-21, with a margin of error of +/- four percentage points.
Meanwhile, a separate poll from the University of North Florida (UNF) that was released in March showed support for legalization at 70 percent.
Advocates have already secured enough valid signatures to qualify a marijuana legalization initiative for the state’s 2024 ballot, but it’s being challenged by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) in the state Supreme Court.
The campaign, attorney general’s office and other stakeholders on both sides of the issue have submitted several briefs to the court over recent months, and the next step is expected to be oral arguments, but those have yet to be scheduled.
One of the attorney general’s main arguments to the court is that the initiative’s summary is affirmatively misleading, in part because it doesn’t explicitly say that cannabis would still be federally prohibited regardless of whether Florida enacts legalization.
The Smart & Safe Florida campaign, which is behind the proposed reform, has contested that claim, saying it “strains credulity well past the breaking point to think that the average voter is unaware that marijuana is illegal at the federal level.”
The marijuana company Trulieve has contributed more than $39 million to the Smart & Safe Florida campaign to date, representing nearly all of the funding for the effort.
If approved, the measure would change the state Constitution to allow existing medical cannabis companies in the state like Trulieve to begin selling marijuana to all adults over 21. It contains a provision that would allow—but not require—lawmakers to take steps toward the approval of additional businesses. Home cultivation by consumers would not be allowed under the proposal as drafted.
Adults 21 and older would be able to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, only five grams of which could be marijuana concentrate products. The three-page measure also omits equity provisions favored by advocates such as expungements or other relief for people with prior cannabis convictions.
Separately, economic analysts from the Florida legislature and the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) estimate that the marijuana legalization initiative would generate between $195.6 million and $431.3 million in new sales tax revenue annually if voters enact it. And those figures could increase considerably if lawmakers opted to impose an additional excise tax on cannabis transactions that’s similar to the ones in place in other legalized states.
Here’s what the Smart & Safe Florida marijuana legalization initiative would accomplish:
Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis for personal use. The cap for marijuana concentrates would be five grams.
Medical cannabis dispensaries could “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute marijuana products and marijuana accessories to adults for personal use.”
The legislature would be authorized—but not required—to approve additional entities that are not currently licensed cannabis dispensaries.
The initiative specifies that nothing in the proposal prevents the legislature from “enacting laws that are consistent with this amendment.”
The amendment further clarifies that nothing about the proposal “changes federal law,” which seems to be an effort to avoid past legal challenges about misleading ballot language.
There are no provisions for home cultivation, expungement of prior records or social equity.
The measure would take effect six months following approval by voters.
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Here’s the full text of the ballot title and summary:
“Allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise; allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories. Applies to Florida law; does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law. Establishes possession limits for personal use. Allows consistent legislation. Defines terms. Provides effective date.”
The legalization measure isn’t expected to receive support from DeSantis, a Republican 2024 presidential candidate who said at a recent event that he would not move to federally decriminalize cannabis if elected. The governor also claimed, contrary to evidence, that the size of Colorado’s illicit market for marijuana grew after it enacted legalization.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.
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