Will Florida Ever Legalize Recreational Marijuana?
The battle of marijuana reform in Florida has been quite a long one. Though legalization efforts began in 1978, it did not come until 2016, and it came in the form of Medical Marijuana. Will Legalize Recreational Marijuana happen in Florida?
The state allowed Floridians with a qualifying debilitating health condition to purchase and use medical marijuana products from a certified Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC). This pre-qualifying survey will tell you if you might qualify for your medical marijuana recommendation.
Four years and many growing pains later, Floridians still do not have full access to marijuana products. The majority of the population wants to know: will Florida ever legalize recreational marijuana?
Timeline of Marijuana Reform in Florida
To better understand how Floridians handle marijuana reform, it is essential to look at the legislative history.
- 1978: The Florida Legislature introudced the Therapeutic Research Program, which never became operational because it would have required permission from the federal government. It involved pharmacies dispensing marijuana to cancer and glaucoma patients, but it was repealed six years later in 1984. [a]
- 1991: During the case of Jenks v. State, the First District Court of Appeals allowed two seriously ill HIV/AIDS patients to argue a medical necessity to defend drug paraphernalia and marijuana cultivation charges. The court found that they met the burden of establishing the defense at trial and reversed the court’s decision, and then the defendants were acquitted.
- 1998: In Sowell v. State, the First District Court of Appeals upheld the medical necessity defense again. The case occurred even after the legislature made a small change to marijuana’s Schedule I statutory language that was unfavorable to the use of medical marijuana.
- 2012: Bills HJR 353 and SJR 1028, a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana in Florida, was introduced by Rep. Jeff Clemens (D – Lake Worth) and Sen. Larcenia J. Bullard (D – Miami), but the bills were never voted on. This was the first time that both the House and the Senate filed medical marijuana bills.
- 2014: The “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014” allowed certified physicians to issue recommendations for individual patients that allowed them to use low-THC cannabis that contained no more than 0.8% THC and more than 10% CBD. It required the Department of Health to create a registry of qualified patients and authorized five companies to grow and sell cannabis. Doctors were asked to “recommend written orders” rather than prescribe them as it could potentially put them at risk under federal law. Being a constitutional amendment, it needed 60% or more of the vote to pass, but it only got 57.6%.
- 2015: County and city governments began allowing police officers to cite, rather than arrest, adults found in possession of marijuana.
- 2016: The Amendment that established a medical marijuana program Amendment passed with a popular vote of 71%. It also allowed Florida residents with a qualifying debilitating health condition to purchase and use medical marijuana products from a certified Medical Marijuana Treatment Center.
- 2019: The legislature enacted Senate Bill 182 was passed, repealing its ban on smokable medical cannabis.
- 2020: Senate Bill 212, which allowed the production and sales of medical marijuana edibles, was enacted.
As you can see, it has taken quite a few battles to get to where we are today.
There are currently five initiatives catered towards expanding the marijuana program in Florida.
The requirements needed to get an initiative certified for Florida’s 2022 ballot are as follows:
- Signatures: The number of signatures required for an initiated constitutional amendment has to equal 8% of the votes cast in the preceding presidential election. The 2022 ballot requirement in Florida will change depending on the number of votes cast in the 2020 presidential election.
- Deadline: February 1, 2022, is the deadline for signature verification. Election officials have 60 days to finish signature verification unless they are submitted less than 60 days ahead of February 1 of an even-numbered year.
Florida Medical Marijuana for Mental Health Disorders Initiative (#18-02)
Another initiative that may appear on the ballot is The Florida Medical Marijuana for Mental Health Disorders Initiative (Initiative #18-02).
The initiative would amend Amendment 2 (2016), to add nine additional mental health disorders to the list of qualifying conditions. These include panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), major depressive disorder (MDD), bipolar disorder, insomnia disorder, opioid use disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and alcohol use disorder.
As of November 22, 2020, the Florida Division of Elections showed that only 373 valid signatures had been gathered.
Florida Medical Marijuana Plants Initiative (Initiative #18-05)
Another initiative that may appear on the ballot is The Florida Medical Marijuana Plants Initiative (Initiative #18-05).
This will allow qualifying medical marijuana patients or their caregivers to grow marijuana plants for medical use. It redefines medical use of marijuana to include growing up to nine mature flowering marijuana plants and possessing the harvested flower and includes the definition of a marijuana plant.
As of November 22, 2020, the Florida Division of Elections showed that 3,981 valid signatures had been gathered.
Right of Adults to Cannabis Amendment (#15-20)
Another initiative that may appear on the ballot is The Right of Adults to Cannabis Amendment (#15-20). This was an initiated constitutional amendment that did not make the ballot in 2016 and is trying again for 2022.
This Amendment guarantees the right of people twenty-one and over to possess, use, and cultivate marijuana, giving the state the power to regulate its purchase and sale in the interest of health and safety.
As of November 22, 2020, the Florida Division of Elections showed that 9,886 valid signatures had been gathered.
Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative (#16-02)
The Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative (#16-02) could appear on the Florida ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 8, 2022.
This regulates marijuana for limited use and growing by those who are twenty-one years of age or older. It requires the state to adopt regulations to issue, renew, suspend, and revoke licenses for cannabis cultivation, product manufacturing, testing, and retail facilities. Local governments may regulate facilities’ time, place, and manner and, if the state fails to act timely, may license facilities.
It was designed to legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by residents at least 21 years old. Floridians would be allowed to grow up to six plants per household, but only three or fewer plants could be flowering. The marijuana plants would need to be grown in an enclosed, locked space and sales of the homegrown flower is not allowed.
As of November 22, 2020, the Florida Division of Elections showed that 74,113 valid signatures had been gathered.
Adult Use of Marijuana (#19-11)
Adult Use of Marijuana (#19-11) seems to have the best shot at passing in 2022.
This allows those 21 years or older to possess, use, purchase, display, and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and accessories for personal use for any reason. Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers would be able to sell, distribute, or dispense marijuana and marijuana accessories as long as the products are labeled and in childproof packaging. Advertising or marketing targeted to persons under 21 is not allowed, and marijuana use in a public place is prohibited.
As of November 22, 2020, the Florida Division of Elections showed that 555,265 valid signatures had been gathered.
There are a couple of initiatives that have a fighting chance in the 2022 election, and by doing your part in the voting, you can help get them passed into law. However, do not get your hopes up for a quick and pain-free process. It has taken years for Florida to allow smokable medical marijuana and edibles to qualifying patients. It does not seem likely that passing recreational laws will be any easier.
For now, Floridians who have a qualifying health condition are eligible for their medical marijuana license, which allows them to purchase and possess medical cannabis products. If you are interested, book a risk-free money-back guaranteed exam with one of DocMJ’s many qualified Florida Medical Marijuana Physicians.
Aaron Bloom serves as the CEO, overseeing the mission and growth of DocMJ and Medwell Health and Wellness Centers. Aaron’s passion for improving patients’ lives comes from his background in health care. For more than 20 years, Aaron owned, operated, and represented traditional healthcare organizations. This experience created a passion for finding improved ways to relieve suffering. His goal as CEO is to work daily to relieve all patients who seek better health and wellness through the medicinal benefits of medical cannabis and evidence-based alternative medicines.