Florida Supreme Court to Allow Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Initiative to Appear on This Year’s Ballot

Florida Supreme Court to Allow Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Initiative to Appear on This Year’s Ballot

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The state's highest court ruled that the industry-funded ballot proposal met all the constitutional requirements for voters to decide the issue.



The third time is indeed the charm—at least for voters in the state of Florida. It has been almost 18 months since the "Smart & Safe Florida" political committee launched its campaign to add a voter-driven ballot initiative to the 2024 ballot legalizing adult-use cannabis for individuals over 21.


The "Adult Personal Use of Marijuana" proposal, if approved by voters, would add an amendment to the Florida State Constitution allowing people 21 or older "to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise."


Additionally, the measure would allow any of the current 22 medical marijuana companies in Florida to begin selling cannabis to all adults over the age of 21. It also contains a provision enabling lawmakers to take steps toward approving additional businesses as potential sellers but does not require it. Finally, the proposed amendment would prohibit individuals from growing cannabis plants for personal use.


However, the initiative faced considerable opposition even after gathering the requisite signatures to qualify for ballot box inclusion. This past June, Florida's Attorney General, Ashley Moody (R), submitted a brief to the state Supreme Court outlining several reasons for excluding the reform measure from the 2024 ballot.


The crux of her argument to invalidate the ballot initiative was wholly predicated on how the ballot summary was written, which she contended was affirmatively misleading to voters on several grounds.


One of her main points of contention concerned the de facto monopoly the constitutional amendment would provide for the medical marijuana companies poised to take control of the retail market if voters do approve the ballot initiative. 


As part of her brief, Moody stated, "Floridians would likely care about this issue because greater competition in the marijuana marketplace would decrease retail prices and increase the quality and professionalism of marijuana producers and retailers. But currently, only [Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers] are licensed to engage in the marijuana trade in Florida, and the proposed amendment would not change that."


"Floridians would likely care about this issue because greater competition in the marijuana marketplace would decrease retail prices and increase the quality and professionalism of marijuana producers and retailers. But currently, only [Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers] are licensed to engage in the marijuana trade in Florida, and the proposed amendment would not change that."

- Legal Brief Filed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody


Despite those reservations and legitimate concerns, it now appears that, according to multiple media outlets, the Florida Supreme Court has rejected the Attorney General's arguments and finally cleared a path for Florida to become the next state to legalize recreational marijuana. On Monday, the court ruled that the measure, funded almost entirely by the mega multi-state operator (MSO) Trulieve (to the tune of close to $40 million), will be allowed to appear on the ballot in November.


In a 5-2 decision, the state justices ruled that the proposed ballot measure "conforms" to state constitutional requirements. As part of their ruling, the justices wrote, "In light of those limited considerations, we approve the proposed amendment for placement on the ballot."


"In light of those limited considerations, we approve the proposed amendment for placement on the ballot."

- Florida Supreme Court Ruling on Cannabis Legalization Initiative


This case marks the third time a marijuana legalization ballot initiative went before the court for approval in the past two years. Two previous proposed measures submitted by "Make It Legal Florida" and "Sensible Florida in 2021" failed to meet the criteria for the court and were rejected. Now that the third ballot measure has been deemed legally sound, Florida voters will get to decide the issue.


If approved by 60% of voters, come November, Amendment 3 will become a permanent part of the Florida Constitution, allowing recreational cannabis sales to Floridians 21 and older at existing medical marijuana treatment centers.


Not surprisingly, Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers, whose company stands to benefit substantially if the initiative passes, said the court's ruling was "correct." "We look forward to supporting this campaign as it heads to the ballot this Fall," Rivers added.


"We look forward to supporting this campaign as it heads to the ballot this Fall."

- Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers


With 134 medical marijuana dispensaries located throughout the state, Trulieve enjoys an unprecedented leading position in Florida's medicinal cannabis program. However, many other MSOs will also rake in significant financial returns if the measure is approved.


One of those companies is Verano Holdings. After the court's ruling, Verano's founder and CEO, George Archos, said, "We applaud the Florida Supreme Court's decision confirming the Adult Personal Use of Marijuana initiative will be on the ballot this November, cementing Floridians' democratic right to vote in favor of ending cannabis prohibition in the Sunshine State."


"We applaud the Florida Supreme Court's decision confirming the Adult Personal Use of Marijuana initiative will be on the ballot this November, cementing Floridians' democratic right to vote in favor of ending cannabis prohibition in the Sunshine State."

- Verano Holdings Founder and CEO George Archos


The blatant favoritism provided to the state's entrenched medical MSOs notwithstanding, many industry advocates and stakeholders view the ruling as a positive step forward in the ongoing broader effort to end the federal prohibition of cannabis.


"This is one of the most important cannabis legalization campaigns in recent years. We have the opportunity to end the injustice of cannabis prohibition for over 22 million Americans," Matthew Schweich, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement.


"This is one of the most important cannabis legalization campaigns in recent years. We have the opportunity to end the injustice of cannabis prohibition for over 22 million Americans."

- Matthew Schweich, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project


As with most battles involving cannabis legalization reform, supporters will have to stomach a little bit of good with a lot of bad if voters approve this "purchased" amendment. Projected to be one of the largest and most lucrative adult-use markets in America once it launches, the real winners will be companies like Trulieve and the host of politicians "monetarily encouraged" to look the other way. 


Legal weed is an inevitability. However, once corporate America and its loyal stable of enabling lawmakers get control of the plant, many cannabis lovers may end up pining for the purer days before money and power usurped their "beautiful flower."