As cannabis law reform activists turn some of their attention to the political battles of 2020, one of the states that is being mentioned in the discussion about adult use legalization is Florida.
We’ve covered Florida’s saga when it comes to implementing medical marijuana quite a bit here at The Marijuana Times, both in print and on Cannabis News. Things have not been smooth, but they also haven’t been as bad as they seemed from the outside, according to Karen Seeb Goldstein, Director of NORML of Florida and Vice Chairman of Regulate Florida.
“The medical marijuana program in Florida actually got out of the gate more quickly than anyone anticipated,” Karen told The Marijuana Times. “We had a start date of six months after the election for the rules to be written and nine months after the election for the permits and licenses and cards to be issued. I had my card in my hand three months after the election, so that was actually way ahead of schedule.”
What delays there have been with medical cannabis in Florida stem from two things. “The delays are in actually mailing the cards to the patients who can use their email as verification in the meantime,” Karen told us. “But the biggest problem is creating the rules for edibles. That delay has been a big issue because there are lots of patients who prefer edibles as their form of medicating. The other problem has been that although amendment 2 did not specifically allow for home growing, it also did not dis-allow it. There are currently two lawsuits, one for home growing and one for smoking of medical cannabis. We have won both lawsuits, but the governor continues to appeal and delay any final action on those lawsuits. That has been monumentally frustrating.”
So as the battles over medical marijuana continue, Florida activists are also looking ahead to what will likely be an even bigger battle: recreational legalization.
Karen says activists are “diligently working to get a sensible policy of marijuana regulation on the ballot for 2020.” While there is much support in Florida for adult use legalization, the major obstacle to getting a measure on the ballot will be funding. “We need to collect about 1 million petitions and have, at this point, about a year to collect them,” she said. “This necessitates paying professional petition gatherers, which is costly.”
And, of course, getting the measure on the ballot is just one step in the journey to victory. If the measure does qualify for the ballot, the battle for votes then begins. You can be sure a heavily-populated state like Florida will draw pro-prohibition forces from all across the country to try and sink what would be a huge win for the cannabis law reform community.
Karen points out polls taken during the 2016 campaign for medical marijuana showed that adult use legalization had popular support in the state, some showing favorability over 60%. A lot has happened since then, including a further lessening of the stigma that surrounds cannabis, especially among older voters.
In any case, you can be sure that the fight for recreational legalization in Florida will be a long and difficult one. If you live in the state and support legalization, now is the time to get involved. Two years may seem like a long time, but in politics, it can go by in the blink of the eye.