Florida hasn’t been especially friendly to marijuana, and the process of legalizing medical marijuana has been nothing if not a long, uphill battle. This hasn’t deterred supporters though, and recreational marijuana is starting to wind its way up the same road.
As of early this month, there are now three petitions circulating that are attempting to get recreational marijuana on the state ballot for 2016. Two of these are relatively thin petitions and have very broad specifications. The first of these wants to legalize recreational marijuana use for residents that are 18 years old and above. This is a younger age than is legal in the four states that currently have recreational laws in place.
The second of these aims to legalize marijuana for Florida residents that are 21 and older. However, it only discusses the growth, possession and use of marijuana.
The third is more robust, and it is called The Florida Cannabis Act. The petition is part of Regulate Florida and it proposes laws that are very similar to the restrictions that were put in place in Colorado and in Washington. Like alcohol, marijuana would be available to residents that are 21 and older, possession of up to an ounce would be legal and the growth of as many as six marijuana plants in the home would be legal.
Leading this act’s charge is Michael Minardi, a Florida attorney who won a case in March 2015 that made him the first person in Florida’s history to successfully defend a client with an argument citing marijuana’s use as a legitimate medical application.
Minardi and Regulate Florida heavily reference Colorado’s success, including the boost to tourism, the economic benefits and hampering the black market. The focus of Regulate Florida seems to rest primarily on safety, in regards to providing regulation to marijuana users and keeping it out of the hands of minors. In an interview with Broward Palm Beach New Times, Minardi referenced the failed “war on drugs” and how in “Colorado and other states that have passed a law like this, that there has been a reduction in suicides, a reduction in traffic fatalities, and a reduction in opiate use.”
This issue is, of course, not without opposition. Just last year, Marco Rubio, a republican Florida senator and presidential hopeful, stated, “I think there’s no responsible way to recreationally use marijuana.” Since then, he has been less ardent when discussing the issue, but seems to still side with prohibition. In a recent Meet the Press interview, Rubio stayed true to this opinion, though conceding that he is open to medicinal marijuana providing it goes through proper FDA channels.
The medical marijuana market alone has been a source of much debate and contention within the state, as last year, a medical recreational bill was narrowly defeated. A 60 percent vote in favor was needed because it was a constitutional amendment, and only 58 percent approved.
As a concession to this, something called the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act was signed into place by Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2014. The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, or SB 1030, is meant to authorize specific physicians to prescribe low-THC cannabis to state-registered patients. This act has, however, experienced great difficulty getting off the ground.
The majority opinion regarding medical marijuana does bode well for recreational marijuana, even though they are two completely different animals. Regardless of The Florida Cannabis Act’s success, it is succeeding in one important aspect: educating the residents of Florida and spreading positive awareness.