Florida Could Get a Boost from the Legal Marijuana Industry
The Sunshine State may soon join the exclusive club of states that have legalized cannabis for both medical and recreational use. There are currently three active petitions being pursued to help achieve this goal. The one with the most attention seems to be “Make It Legal Florida”, which has kicked off the ‘Florida Marijuana Legalization and Medical Marijuana Treatment Center Sales Initiative’.
This ballot initiative proposes to add a section to the Florida Constitution that would make it legal for a person to purchase and use up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis. It would also allow adults over the age of 21 years to buy cannabis for personal use from medical marijuana treatment centers.
Another prominent ballot initiative is being sponsored by Sensible Florida. Named the ‘Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative', it seeks to legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 years and older. It also wants residents to have the right to cultivate up to 6 plants per household, with no more than three being mature or flowering.
For any initiative to qualify to get on the November 2020 ballot, proponents must collect 76,632 signatures that state law requires for the Florida Supreme Court to review the petition. After consideration, the next step is to collect and have verified 766,200 signatures by February 1st, 2020. This will qualify the legalization amendment to appear on the 2020 ballot. By October 11th, Sensible Florida claimed to have collected 91,707 signatures, while Make It Legal Florida claimed over 100,000 petition signatures.
A similar constitutional amendment was passed in 2016 allowing for medical use of marijuana. The initiative passed on the ballot with a vote of 71.3% for the cause, versus 28.7% against. There were challenges in implementation as the then Governor Rick Scott opposed and attempted to ban smoking of cannabis, preferring alternative modes of administration of the drug, such as edibles, tinctures, and sprays. This ban was however ruled unconstitutional and was eventually lifted by the current Governor Ron DeSantis. While he was instrumental in easing restrictions on medical marijuana use, he is not in support of its recreational use, according to WCTV.tv.
Even with this opposition from leadership, most residents appear to favor the legalization of recreational use marijuana. Polls by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates and Quinnipiac University, indicate that as much as 67% of Florida voters support this move. Besides this all-time high level of bipartisan support, further research by New Frontier Data indicates that job numbers in the state's marijuana industry could rise to 128,587, from its current level of less than 17,000. With Florida being the third most populous state in the country, the study also indicates it could claim as much as 12% of the nation’s cannabis market by 2025.
According to the chief knowledge officer at New Frontier Data, John Kagia, the surge in job opportunities would vary widely. With demand rising for workers from the lower-skilled cadres like trimmers, to higher-skilled chemists. From the cultivation and manufacturing start to the dispensaries and budtenders at the consumer’s end, there is a wide spectrum of career options that open up as the market grows.
While state legislature continues to drag its feet on what is likely an inevitable conclusion, some cities and counties of Florida have begun the process of decriminalizing marijuana possession. Rather than apply state penalties that make possession a misdemeanor, that can attract up to one year in prison. A fine, and suspension of driver’s license could prove a more productive and efficient solution. Counties like Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach have approved civil citations to be issued for possession of up to 20 grams, with low fines that increase with subsequent repeat offenses. Tampa and Florida have also passed similar laws, with Orlando providing an alternative of 8 hours of drug education or community service in lieu of the fines.