Last year was pretty exciting for Florida – we had quite a bit of attention brought to the idea of legalizing cannabis on a recreational level, not just a medicinal one – and it was pretty well received in our state considering the number of retired conservatives living out their golden years in the Sunshine State.
While John Morgan’s medical marijuana amendment is on the ballot for 2016, none of the campaigns gunning for full-on legalization managed to reach their signature goal in time. One of the most well-known groups, Regulate Florida, actually dropped out and temporarily went back to the drawing board.
So does this mean all of these signed petitions are no longer valid? Will they even have the motivation to try again? How long will we have to wait before the herb is legal to all of us, as it should be?
Well, to be fair, each group collecting signatures is at a little bit different of a place right now. So I checked in with the two that I wrote about previously – Regulate Florida and Floridians For Freedom – to see exactly where they’re at in the fight to legalize marijuana.
An Update on Regulate Florida
The amendment that would be passed with Regulate Florida is definitely the most restrictive measure I’ve seen so far – but that could also give them a leg up in the game with the large number of older republican residents. The basics of their campaign is that it would regulate marijuana in a similar fashion to alcohol – it would be taxed and sold in a very similar fashion.
It was August 2015 when Regulate Florida started gathering petitions – and they had high hopes for making the 2016 ballot. Unfortunately in January they announced that they would be dropping their efforts for this year and refocusing their energy and funds into the 2018 election.
This past Wednesday I got a chance to talk to Michael Minardi, the campaign chairman for Regulate Florida, to see exactly where they are at. The first bit of news I got was that they have had to resubmit the writing for the amendment and the petitions.
Among the changes to the writing were measures being taken for “protection of people’s rights, business owner’s rights” as well as a reducing the citizenship requirement for business owners from two years to only six months. They have also raised the number of flowering plants allowed by home cultivators to six from the previous three.
Aside from these changes there is also the addition of a grandfather clause to protect business owners from losing their property and business if they were licensed prior to a countywide ban (such as what’s happening in Washington with the new limit on dispensaries). Other changes were merely minor wording changes or date changes throughout the documents.
“We think that we have a strong amendment, a solid amendment that is logical and sensible – it creates freedoms for individuals and also it creates protections for businesses, employers and children.” – Michael Minardi
At the time of my phone conversation they were planning to resubmit the wording by Friday – I received an email Thursday saying the wording was submitted to the Division of Elections and was awaiting approval. Within the next week or so Regulate Florida will be ready to start gathering petitions again – and they are planning a launch party for early April to kick of the campaign.
An Update on Floridians For Freedom
This group is one of the other rather well-known in the state, with many supporters and a simple goal in mind. Rather than trying to set up the entire regulatory system themselves, the Floridians For Freedom group want to restore a right that has been taken from us – the right to possess, use and cultivate cannabis, or more simply, the right to the cannabis plant.
“Prohibition against cannabis is a violation of our human rights.” – Colby Hall, owner of It’s Alll Good (Bradenton, FL)
Their amendment is written in only a few sort paragraphs – the summary on the petition is nearly identical – but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great amendment to vote for. While Regulate Florida is prepared to set up a taxed and regulated economy, the Floridians For Freedom group believe that first and foremost the plant should not be banned in any form.
The problem that they see with extremely in depth amendments such as Regulate Florida’s is that it still leaves open the criminal element – it does not entirely end prohibition. There are still loopholes that could be cause for local governments to interfere – such as finding out you’re growing more than the allotted number of plants, or you bought more than was allowed in a single day by going to multiple dispensaries.
With the amendment that Floridians For Freedom has proposed there would be no question – the plant is legal to persons 21 and over. It wouldn’t matter if it was an extremely potent plant or an industrial plant or even seeds – every aspect of that plant would be legal.
As far as taxation goes, this amendment says “This right shall not be infringed except that the transfer of cannabis by purchase or sale may be regulated as necessary to ensure health and safety.”
The quote above was from an interview I had this week with a headshop owner who is local to me and also happens to be a part of the Floridians For Freedom Adult Right to Cannabis campaign.
Colby brought me up to date on where the Adult Right to Cannabis movement is at right now – and I think they’re poised for a great shot at the 2018 ballots with enough support. Their amendment was approved last year for petition gathering – and this means it is still valid for signature gathering for 2018 already. All their petitions are going to be valid for 2 years – so in essence they’ve already got a head start on this round.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about talking to Colby was his open mind – on a previous article about these two groups we saw comments from Regulate Florida making their claim seem like the only legitimate option – but Colby would rather see the groups working together towards a common cause.
He also made it a point to bring my attention to lesser known petitions. While there are many that were created and have not attempted much if any signature gathering, there is one group I’m interested to learn more about.
Have You Heard of the Florida Organization of Reform?
This group is doing a couple of different things that will be extremely beneficial to Florida over the years to come. One of the first things to note is that those at the Florida Organization of Reform are currently working on a cannabis legalization initiative which would legalized cultivation, possession, processing and sale of marijuana (with no limitations) for all adults over 21.
This amendment has not been submitted to the Division of Elections yet – they are actually counting down the days (14 roughly at the time of writing this) left where they are searching for community input prior to submitting their amendment for review.
Their approach is somewhere between the other two groups – it’s not a few simple paragraphs like Floridians for Freedom – but it’s also not a several page long document with unnecessary restrictions such as number of plants or amount you can purchase in a store. The fact that they are looking to local communities for their suggestions is unique as well – helping to make everyone feel involved and like their voice will be heard.
Another interesting thing about this group is that they are not singly focused on the legalization of cannabis. They have another agenda that will likely bring about more citizen based ballot initiatives in the future.
Now, we all know by now (I’ve probably told you a thousand times, right?) Florida requires a 60% vote to pass a proposed constitutional amendment. Well, I just found out (Thanks, Colby!) that this was not always the case. Back in 2006 an amendment was put on the ballot by lawmakers that changed the threshold from 50% to 60% – and it didn’t even get 60% of the vote itself!
A ballot initiative that is already gathering petitions by Florida Organization of Reform is aiming to repeal this “Supermajority Requirement Amendment of 2006”.
When I spoke to Colby he told me that one of the most common things he hears when gathering petitions is that the 60% threshold concerns voters and makes them in many cases less likely to even sign a petition, figuring the amendment will not pass even if it makes the ballot.
If this requirement were repealed, we could see a large rise in the number of citizen led petitions for a number of things. It certainly would make accomplishing the goal of legal cannabis much easier – unfortunately even if it passes it wouldn’t take effect until 2018 anyway.
So Where Will the Future Take Us?
It’s a long ways away to be thinking about the 2018 election – or so it may seem. While we haven’t even voted on United for Care’s Amendment 2, it absolutely doesn’t hurt to be looking towards the future. With 65% polling for medical marijuana in a recent update from United for Care, it’s not hard to think the support for outright legalization is not far behind.
The question is, will we see a “customer based” amendment (Regulate Florida, which as well as legalization focuses largely on creating a functioning industry) or a “rights based” amendment, re-establishing a right that was taken from us decades ago.
While so many are focused on earning tax dollars from cannabis (and using that to convince people who refuse to change their reefer madness opinions) we should be focused on ending prohibition. The rest will follow naturally – we’re a tourist based state and even if only a small handful of citizens chose to purchase their marijuana instead of grow we would still be generating millions of dollars through sales.
I see great points in all of these campaigns – and I cannot say right now that one has much of a leg up over the others. I think if they were to all support each other in petition gathering efforts, we could see one or more of these initiatives on the ballots in 2018.