Gov. Ron DeSantis is not an advocate for legalized marijuana, but he said voters in his state likely will get a chance to vote on that this year.
The Adult Personal Use of Marijuana citizen initiative that could lead to a constitutional amendment for voter consideration, with legalization in effect as soon as May 2025 if 60% or more of voters approve.
If the court allows Florida voters to weigh in, it will be over the objections of the state’s top cop.
Attorney General Ashley Moody has cited law requiring constitutional amendments to touch on just a single subject, and expressed doubt whether this one complies with all technical requirements of state law.
Smart & Safe Florida already has more than a million verified signatures, meeting the threshold needed for ballot inclusion should the Supreme Court back its position. The committee has raised more than $40 million, almost entirely from Trulieve, the leading dispensary chain in the state in terms of number of storefronts.
DeSantis has said he opposes legalization for a variety of reasons, including saying today’s product is “too potent” and that dealers can “throw fentanyl in” while on the campaign trail last year during his presidential campaign.
Early in his first term in office, DeSantis pleased reformers when he came out against the Rick Scott-era opposition to cannabis that could be smoked. Previously, loose flower was not available, with only vaporizer cups for sale at dispensaries.
“I look at someone who has Lou Gehrig’s disease or terminal cancer or multiple sclerosis … I think the Florida voters who voted for that wanted them to have access to medical marijuana under the supervision of a physician. Whether they have to smoke it or not, who am I to judge that?” DeSantis said. “I want people to have their suffering relieved. I don’t think this law is up to snuff.”
However, the Governor has taken a harder line against marijuana in recent years.
“If you look at some of the stuff that’s now coming down, there’s a lot of really bad things in it. It’s not necessarily what you would’ve had 30 years ago when someone’s in college and they’re doing something. You have some really, really bad stuff in there, so I think having the ability to identify that, I think, that’s safety, and quite frankly when you get into some of that stuff, it’s not medicinal at that point for sure,” DeSantis said, in response to a reporter’s question in 2021.
In 2022, the Governor took an even harder line position against so-called “recreational” use.
“What I don’t like about it is if you go to some of these places that have done it, the stench when you’re out there, I mean, it smells so putrid,” he told reporters. “I could not believe the pungent odor that you would see in some of these places. I don’t want to see that here. I want people to be able to breathe freely.”
Despite these qualms, it appears the Governor has made his peace with voters deciding on this one.
Polling last Spring by Mason-Dixon suggests the amendment would have 50% support on the ballot, a number which would ensure it falls far short of ratification.
However, other surveys indicate support well above the 60% threshold for passage. Notably, a March poll conducted by the University of North Florida found 70% of Floridians either “strongly” or “somewhat” support legalizing recreational use for people over 21, with 29% either “strongly” or “somewhat” opposed. In November, 67% of respondents said they backed the citizens’ initiative.
Given that the vote would happen on a presidential General Election ballot, it’s all but assured that turnout will be juiced compared to that of most off-year election cycles. Meanwhile, with President Joe Biden expected to reschedule cannabis, reform may be in the air in Florida voting booths as well.
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