Seven In Ten Florida Voters Support Legal Cannabis

Seven In Ten Florida Voters Support Legal Cannabis

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A recent poll shows that seventy percent of those surveyed support the legalization of recreational marijuana in Florida.

The effort to establish a legal and regulated adult-use cannabis market in Florida received additional ammunition this week in the form of a new University of North Florida survey. According to several local and national media outlets, the UNF Public Opinion Research Lab poll found that 70% of respondents either somewhat or strongly support the idea of ratifying an amendment to the Florida State Constitution to legalize recreational cannabis. In comparison, only 29% strongly or somewhat opposed the initiative.

With 75% of Democrats and 57% of Republicans in favor of the proposed amendment, the desire to see legal recreational marijuana in Florida cuts across all party affiliations. Likewise, the researchers found majority approval in every age demographic as well.

In a press release, Michael Binder, a Political Science professor at UNF and the faculty director of PORL, said, "Efforts to put recreational marijuana in front of voters in 2024 are in the beginning stages, but support for it is high across the political spectrum. If it makes it onto the ballot next year, and that's a big 'if,' it has a good chance of reaching the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass."

"Efforts to put recreational marijuana in front of voters in 2024 are in the beginning stages, but support for it is high across the political spectrum. If it makes it onto the ballot next year, and that's a big 'if,' it has a good chance of reaching the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass."

- Political Science Professor Michael Binder, Faculty Director of UNF's PORL

The poll findings come on the heels of a massive and ongoing marijuana industry-funded campaign to get the legalization measure added to the state's 2024 election ballot. The "Smart & Safe Florida" campaign committee, funded almost entirely by Florida's largest medical cannabis company Trulieve, cleared a significant hurdle at the end of January when it garnered the necessary number of petition signatures to initiate a Florida Supreme Court Review of its "Adult Personal Use of Marijuana" proposal.

With the legal review now in motion, the court will begin examining the wording of the proposed ballot measure to ensure that it does not violate the state Constitution's single-subject rule and is not misleading to voters. If it passes the court's legal scrutiny and meets all required standards, the committee will need to acquire at least 891,589 signatures to get the initiative added to next year's ballot. According to the state's Division of Elections, the campaign recently surpassed the symbolically significant 420,000 signature milestone.

If voters approved the measure, an amendment would be permanently added 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."

In addition, the proposed amendment would enable any of the current 22 medical marijuana companies in Florida, like Trulieve, to begin selling cannabis to all adults over 21. It also contains a provision enabling lawmakers to take steps toward approving additional businesses as potential sellers but does not require it. Finally, under the proposal, individuals would not be allowed to grow cannabis for personal use.

Despite the encouraging poll results and the significant momentum of the Trulieve-sponsored campaign, industry activists and stakeholders have expressed concerns about the proposal and those who stand to benefit the most from its potential enactment, most notably Trulieve and the other medical marijuana operators in Florida.

As pointed out earlier, Trulieve is the largest medicinal cannabis company in the state, and it has contributed nearly $25 million (practically the entire budget) to the "Smart and Safe Florida" campaign. If the courts approve the wording and voters pass the ballot initiative, the biggest winners will be companies like Trulieve.

Another sticking point for critics of the effort is the lack of social equity provisions in the proposal, including expungements and similar legal relief for individuals with prior marijuana convictions. They view these omissions as unacceptable, considering the proposal would become a permanent part of the state Constitution.

A similar constitutional amendment approach in Arkansas failed this past November for many of the same reasons highlighted by those opposing this new Florida proposition. At the beginning of the reform effort, non-profit advocacy groups created grassroots campaigns to get recreational cannabis legalized in states like Colorado, Washington and California. However, in recent years, the funding for legalization has come almost exclusively from large cannabis operators like Trulieve.

Suppose some of these industry-friendly proposals become actual constitutional amendments. In that case, it could establish some disturbing precedents for an industry and culture founded on fierce individualism and small business roots. Fortunately, vigilant market and political watchers have successfully educated and mobilized voters to understand that not all legalization reforms are created equal.

The Florida campaign still has a long journey ahead before it can reach the voters on Election Day 2024. However, before it has a chance to make it to that threshold moment, it is incumbent upon lawmakers, the courts, industry guardians and the voters to ensure that if and when recreational marijuana becomes legal in Florida, the process is fair, transparent and beneficial for the majority of Floridians and not just the select and privileged few.