New Report Reveals the Big Cannabis Companies Funding Florida’s Marijuana Legalization Initiative

New Report Reveals the Big Cannabis Companies Funding Florida’s Marijuana Legalization Initiative

With the state's Supreme Court recently clearing the way for a 2024 ballot initiative that would legalize recreational cannabis, records reveal the companies providing the cash fueling the reform measure.

There is an iconic line from the groundbreaking film, "All The President's Men," detailing the Watergate scandal that ultimately forced President Richard Nixon to resign office in 1974 following a series of damning revelations by former staff and the bumbling criminals who broke into the National Democratic Campaign headquarters in June 1972. 

The story was initially reported by Washington Post political writers Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Their main inside source for corroborating the sensational escapade was a man given the code name "Deep Throat." In the film, the actor playing the shadowy and mysterious real-life character tells the investigative duo to "Follow the money." 

Since then, those three simple words have become synonymous with political corruption and the appropriate level of healthy cynicism most Americans feel concerning the political process and the dubious individuals inhabiting the halls of Congress and the White House.

Sadly, despite the shame and dishonor brought on by Nixon's calamitous fall, not much has changed in Washington or around the country when it comes to the seedy and shady process of deep-pocketed and ill-intentioned people and organizations seeking to affect the lawmaking process through the thinly veiled glorified bribery process known as political contributions.

A prime example of this all too American practice and behavior is the current shameless "Adult Personal Use of Marijuana" ballot proposal to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state of Florida. In late 2022, the "Smart & Safe Florida" political committee launched its campaign to add a voter-driven ballot initiative to the 2024 ballot legalizing recreational marijuana for individuals over 21.

On the surface, the popular reform measure seems to do for the citizens of the Sunshine State the same thing similar legislative reforms and other ballot initiatives have done for several different states since Colorado and Washington became the first two to pass adult-use legalization statutes in 2012.

However, unlike every other reform bill passed, this measure would forever alter Florida's constitution. Along with legalizing recreational marijuana use, the ballot measure would, most notably, allow any of the current 22 medical marijuana companies in Florida to begin selling cannabis to all adults over the age of 21. And, even though the proposal also contains a provision enabling lawmakers to take steps toward approving additional businesses as potential sellers, it does not require it.

Now, a new report revealing the primary contributors to the campaign is providing revelatory details as to why the amendment is constructed to overly favor and benefit those massive Big Cannabis multi-state operators.

As first reported by Marijuana Moment, the Florida Division of Elections (DOE) released the campaign finance activity report for the first quarter of 2024 on Thursday, and the details, as the familiar axiom goes, are pretty devilish. According to the report, $14,875,000 in new contributions funding the supposed grassroots campaign came predominantly from several of the large MSO companies currently serving as medical marijuana providers in the state.

The most substantial contribution ($9.225 million) came from the initiative's primary financial backer, Trulieve, which had previously contributed roughly $40 million to get the measure on the 2024 ballot. Below is the complete list of donors minus the $22.53 from two anonymous individuals:

  • Trulieve: $9.225 million
  • Verano Holdings: $2.25 million
  • Curaleaf: $2 million
  • Ayr Wellness: $500,000
  • Green Thumb Industries: $500,000
  • Cresco Labs: $400,000

Not surprisingly, last week, the state's notoriously conservative and previously anti-cannabis Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing the reform measure on the ballot, despite having previously rejected two other proposals in 2021 ("Make It Legal Florida" and "Sensible Florida in 2021") for failing to meet the necessary criteria to be on the ballot.

In a 5-2 decision, the state justices ruled that the proposed ballot measure "conforms" to state constitutional requirements even though its language and overall structure similarly match the wording and content of the two 2021 rejected measures, except for the glaring requirement that only current state medical marijuana providers be the only companies allowed to sell recreational cannabis.

While the ballot initiative is no sure-fire slam dunk for those funding and supporting the reform proposal (60% of Floridians must approve it), many political watchers and industry stakeholders believe the measure will pass this fall, if only by the narrowest of margins.

Similar ballot initiatives have failed in the past, most recently in Arkansas, where voters rejected the permanent constitutional amendment approach, which would've also given exclusive selling capabilities to that state's medical marijuana providers. 

However, Florida, backed up by actual, unbelievable results in many respects, will most likely eschew the fundamental American principles of fairness and anti-monopolistic sentiments and allow this "bought and paid for" law to pass unchallenged.

This episode is just the most recent example of Florida Big Cannabis MSOs exerting undue and potentially damaging influence over the lawmaking process concerning cannabis legalization reform.

Previously, they have been accused of maneuvering behind the scenes to gut and severely hobble the state's prosperous and popular hemp-derived cannabinoid industry as well. Unless these massive and powerful companies are held in check, the legal weed reform many Floridians are hoping for this fall might just blow up in their faces. Follow the money, indeed.