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The dream of legal recreational cannabis in Florida may have gotten closer in August when activists filed the paperwork to place a marijuana legalization initiative on the 2024 ballot. 

Supporters must gather almost 900,000 petition signatures to get the measure onto the 2024 ballot.  

According to the Smart and Safe Florida campaign, the constitutional amendment would allow adults over 21 to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, including 5 grams or less of cannabis concentrate. It does not include any social equity provisions or expungements of criminal records. 

The initiative would allow Florida’s medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational cannabis to adults over 21 without a prescription. The legalization campaign has received $5 million in backing from Florida’s largest operator of medical cannabis dispensaries, Trulieve, who would stand to benefit greatly from the transition to legal adult-use cannabis. 

This has drawn the ire of some legalization supporters who argue that it would allow current medical cannabis providers to dominate - the adult-use market.

The initiative is not the only marijuana legalization effort underway in Florida in recent years. NORML lists a series of state senate bills and house bills that would allow adults over 21 to possess and purchase cannabis - all of which died in committee before becoming law. 

The largest medical cannabis-only market in the United States  

On Election Day in November 2016, Florida voters approved Amendment 2, also known as the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative. 

Under the state’s medical cannabis program, patients can purchase medical marijuana at one of the state’s 476 Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTC). But those 476 dispensaries are divided among only 22 companies - serving more than 700,000 patients. These 22 companies include giants like Trulieve, which opened its 100th dispensary in Florida in 2021.  

Florida has only issued 22 MMTC licenses since 2016, largely due to the requirement that all MMTCs have vertical integration. This effectively shuts out smaller cannabis producers, who don’t have the ability to grow, process, market, and sell cannabis.  

These MMTC licenses are incredibly lucrative because they allow unlimited cultivation, processing facilities, and dispensary licenses. 

In August, Florida officials issued new limits on the potency and amount of marijuana doctors can order for patients. These include a daily dose limit of 60mg THC for edibles, 350mg for vaporization, 200 mg for capsules and tinctures, 190 mg for sublingual tinctures, 190 mg for suppositories, and 150 mg for topicals. 

What’s next for cannabis in Florida?

Many cannabis legalization supporters in Florida have staked their hope largely on Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, an avid and very vocal supporter of legalization who is running for governor as a Democrat. 

Fried has called on the Florida Department of Health and the Office of Medical Marijuana Use to cancel the dosage restrictions enacted in August. The limits reflect “a lack of understanding of medical cannabis by DOHJ and OMMU at best and are an act of cruelty at worst,” according to Fried. 

In early August, Fried criticized the Department of Justice for disqualifying medical cannabis patients in Florida from legally buying guns. 

Fried said the DOJ’s reasoning “is as offensive as it is inaccurate, utilizing centuries-old case law and making false claims demonizing medical marijuana patients - including perpetuating prejudicial stereotypes that cannabis users are dangerous or mentally ill.” 

A beacon of hope for legalization?

Sally Peebles, a partner in the Florida office of the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, told Rootwurks, “we do have a beacon of hope [for legalization] which is Nikki Fried.”

Peebles was a founder of the legalization non-profit “Women’s Initiative for a Safe and Equitable Florida” (WISE Florida). She said that “there have been some [legalization] efforts, they’re just not getting much traction.” 

Peebles said, “you have to appease both the industry and the activists when asked what's holding back legalization in Florida. You can’t take sides, and you have to let them both have a win.”

She added, “there needs to be a unified voice that puts together a bill that appeases both sides. And then that same voice needs to be not controversial, and then they need to go get funding.”

But ultimately, the fate of legalization in Florida won’t rely solely on the efforts of activists. 

“It’s going to take a lot of money,” Peebles said.

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Ben Hartman, Content Manager

Ben Hartman is a cannabis writing and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in journalism and digital content creation. Ben was formerly the senior writer and research and analysis lead for The Cannigma.

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