In a joint effort, two state representatives submitted legislation to legalize, regulate, and tax a recreational cannabis market in Florida.
Rep. Michael Grieco, D-Miami Beach, and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, co-sponsored the 58-page proposal, known as HB 1117, which was filed in the Florida House Tuesday, February 26.
“With bipartisan efforts in criminal justice reform reaching new levels this year, it is the right time for Florida to start having a real conversation about legalizing marijuana for adult use,” Grieco said in a statement. “It’s coming one way or another, either by a 2020/2022 ballot measure or from us here in the legislature. Colorado has collected over one billion dollars in taxes from marijuana sales since 2014, so imagine what bigger, sunnier Florida could do.”
What would legalization look like under HB 1117?
If approved, HB 1117 would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess, use, and transport up to two-and-one-half ounces of cannabis at a time. Adults would also be permitted to cultivate their own cannabis at home for personal use.
Consumption would be restricted to private spaces as public use would remain illegal. Public consumption would be punishable with up to a $100 fine.
“Continuing to criminalize responsible adult use of cannabis just doesn’t make any sense,” Smith said. “No one is dying from cannabis overdoses but they are getting arrested and being given criminal records for no good reason. A majority of Floridians support legalizing adult-use cannabis, so let’s do this already.”
Separately, Grieco filed HB 1119, which aims to establish a method of taxation for cannabis sales so that the state would benefit from such transactions.
While these proposals are not expected to be approved this session, the sponsors expect it to continue the legalization conversation in the Sunshine State.
Medical cannabis was legalized by voters in 2016, and patients are currently fighting for the right to be able to smoke dried cannabis flower, a method of consumption that is currently illegal in the state.
An advocacy group has gathered enough signatures to ensure that an amendment to Florida’s constitution which would legalize medical cannabis will appear on the state’s ballot in November.
“This November, Florida will pass this law and hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering people will see relief,”
said John Morgan, an Orlando lawyer and chairman of United for Care, the group that spearheaded the signature drive.
“What Tallahassee politicians refused to do, the people will do together in this election.”
Legalized medical cannabis has been a hot-button issue in Florida for several years, with a legalization amendment in 2014 falling just short of the 60 percent threshold needed for passage. Morgan, however, believes that this is the year that will finally see its passage. The most recent Quinnipiac poll revealed that nearly 90 percent of Florida voters support the legalization of cannabis for medicinal use.
“Our language is stronger than in 2014 and it shows,”
“The people of Florida are compassionate. We will win this election for the really sick people in our state.”
Under the measure to appear on the 2016 ballot, state-licensed physicians would be able to recommend the use of cannabis to patients suffering from conditions like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and cancer.
The proposed amendment is advancing concurrently with a statehouse measure that looks to broaden terminal patients’ access to medical cannabis. Florida has already enacted what is referred to as a CBD-only law, meaning terminal patients currently may only use cannabis strains that are low in THC and high in CBD. Like the voter initiative, the statehouse measure also seeks to allow terminal patients access to stronger, full potency, whole-plant medicinal cannabis.
While single cannabinoid therapies, like CBD-only, are successful in the treatment of some conditions, multiple cannabinoids working together in a process known as the entourage effect is labeled by experts as most medicinally beneficial.
United for Care invested heavily in the signature effort, using approximately $3.3 million, which constituted nearly all of its donations.