Trulieve, the state’s largest medical-marijuana operator, and country-music legends The Bellamy Brothers are backing a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow recreational use of marijuana by people 21 or older.
The proposed amendment was filed Monday at the state Division of Elections, with Tallahassee-based Trulieve contributing $5 million to the effort to get the measure on the 2024 ballot. Other multi-state medical marijuana operators also are expected to support the campaign.
Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2016 to broadly legalize medical marijuana, and nearly 800,000 patients have been authorized for the treatment.
While past recreational-marijuana initiatives in the state have failed, supporters of the new proposal say they’re confident it will satisfy Florida Supreme Court requirements to make it onto the ballot and will gain support from voters.
“It’s all about improving access,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers told The News Service of Florida in an interview. “We came into this with a mission to provide access to high-quality products that are safe and have an appropriate value proposition to give folks control over their — in the original days — medical journey. I don’t think that changes here. I mean, in effect we are at our core about expanding the opportunity for access to safe legal product, which is what this would allow us to continue to do.”
The “Adult Personal Use of Marijuana” proposal would allow people 21 or older “to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise.”
The proposed amendment, which was provided to the News Service, also would allow “medical marijuana treatment centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell and distribute such products and accessories.” The initiative would not authorize people to grow marijuana plants for personal use.
The proposal could bust up the state’s current requirement that medical marijuana businesses — called “medical marijuana treatment centers” — conduct all aspects of operations, from cultivation to retailing. Lawmakers established the industry’s “vertical integration” system after the 2016 amendment passed, but critics maintain it makes operations prohibitively expensive for smaller entrepreneurs.
If voters sign off on the new proposal, lawmakers still would have final say on how the industry is structured.
“Nothing in this amendment prohibits the Legislature from enacting laws that are consistent with this amendment,” the proposal says.
Rivers said the nod to the Legislature was intentional and pointed to a requirement that proposed constitutional amendments be limited to single subjects. The Florida Supreme Court reviews proposals to make sure they comply with the requirement.
“Any amendment in the state of Florida has to be very careful in terms of single subjects with this court and so I do know, speaking with the lawyers, that there was a very high focus on keeping this really focused around authorizing adult use and then allowing the Legislature to develop policy,” she said.
The Smart & Safe Florida political committee, headed by musician David Bellamy, is supporting the proposal, which would need nearly 900,000 petition signatures to make it onto the 2024 ballot. Paperwork for the committee was filed Monday at the Division of Elections.
The Bellamy brothers, Florida natives who own a ranch in Pasco County, already joined forces with Trulieve for a line of cannabis products.
The musical duo, who are in their 70s, told the News Service that “Florida is ready” for recreational marijuana.
“As we travel the country, we see the benefits of adult use and as Florida residents we love the ‘freedom state’ moniker and believe that Florida needs to join the millions of Americans whose adults are free to use cannabis without fear of being incarcerated,” they said in an email response to questions from the News Service.
The Florida Supreme Court last year rejected two recreational pot initiatives.
One proposal, backed by the political committee Sensible Florida, was framed as regulating marijuana similar to alcohol. But in a 5-2 decision in June 2021, the court ruled that the ballot summary would be misleading to voters. Attorney General Ashley Moody and the Florida Chamber of Commerce were among the opponents of the initiative.
The court in April 2021 also rejected a separate recreational-marijuana initiative, backed by the Make It Legal committee, saying for different reasons that the proposal would mislead voters.
Rivers said lawyers have scrutinized the court’s rulings when crafting the latest proposal.
“Every initiative has provided some level of learning,” she said. “With this initiative, the authors have taken a hard look at the Supreme Court rulings surrounding the previous efforts and taken that into consideration. We believe it’s a very appropriate and narrowly focused amendment that does defer appropriately to the Legislature.”
While Trulieve is contributing the seed money for the effort, Rivers said she expects the proposal will draw support from other industry leaders.
“While we’re happy to provide investment, we also do believe that there are a lot of folks who are very passionate about this and I expect to have a great engagement across the community,” she said.
After the Supreme Court rejected its proposal last year, Sensible Florida filed another initiative for the 2024 ballot that would allow people 21 or older to use marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants. Trulieve contributed $250,000 to the committee, which has collected fewer than 23,000 petition signatures.
But it’s expected that supporters of authorizing adult use will galvanize around the amendment filed Monday.
With a steadily growing number of medical marijuana patients in the state and attitudes toward pot becoming increasingly favorable, Rivers said she expects a “large grass-roots effort” to drum up support for the adult-use proposal.
“One of the interesting aspects here is that we do have (a) medical-cannabis market and we have hundreds of thousands of patients in Florida who are utilizing medical cannabis regularly. So our ability to reach out and to have more direct communication … is a bit unique from a positioning perspective,” she said.
The Bellamy brothers also maintain that allowing people to use marijuana will help save money for the state and help people who have been “wrongfully” imprisoned for possession of cannabis.
“We see it every day and hear it from everyone we speak with, that the idea of putting adults in jail and ruining their lives for using cannabis is crazy. We have also read the polls and see consistent and strong support for an effort to allow adults to use cannabis,” they said in the email.
–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida
deborah s mott says
What will criminalize recreational users is impaired driving, public under the influence & whatever other crimes would be committed. There will be tax evasion, because dealing/selling recreational marijuana is a source of income. Expect it to be even more prevalent at the schools because now you’ll have the 21 & older targeting minors, if not even recruiting them to sell it to their classmates.
I will vote against legalized recreational marijuana, the other illegal drugs will still be available as well. Fooling yourself if you think this gets any better by legalizing recreational marijuana.
The dude says
One of those who bought into the “Reefer Madness” propaganda huh?
Weed will probably not directly lead to boogie dancing and intermingling of the races Jimbo… but even if it did, where’s the harm?
There’s already more weed shops than Starbucks here.
Either treat it like alcohol and nicotine, or treat alcohol and nicotine how you treat the weed.
All you have to do is substitute the word Alcohol for Marijuana into your meaningless statement Jimbo for the years of 1920 to 1933. Legalized means it would be sold in dispensaries (no tax evasion) not on street corners like now, also it would be regulated like 19 States, Washington D.C. and Guam have already done.
Stephen Smith says
People have been driving under the influence of Marijuana for more years than you can believe. They have also been under the influence in public even longer.
What’s your point?
Brian Kelly says
Cannabis consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.
Plain and simple!
Legalize Nationwide Federally Now!
The “War on Cannabis” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.
Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our yearly tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Cannabis”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. Especially now, due to Covid-19. It’s a no brainer.
The Prohibition of Cannabis has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records. Especially, if they happen to be of the “wrong” skin color or they happen to be from the “wrong” neighborhood. Which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?
Cannabis is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?
Let’s end this hypocrisy now!
The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less cannabis “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.
Cannabis Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!
Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Cannabis Legalization Initiative!
19 other states along with Washington D.C. and Guam have Freedom like Gov.Duh is always posing for.
For me, the fact that marijuana being illegal is insane. It’s a damn plant. To demonize it is crazy. We should be able to grow this damn plant in our yards if we want. I have a plant out front called oleander that can kill people with a few drops. It’s not illegal. Lowe’s and Home Depot sell a plant called cyclamen that can kill pets and small children, and it’s not labeled as dangerous, or anything for that matter. But that’s okay, right? But pot? Heaven forbid. Crazy.
We should be able to grow any plant we want. If you really want to stop drug abuse, legislate the processing of these plants. Make it a big deal to process cocaine or heroine. Make it undesirable to do so. War on drugs over. Meanwhile, government, find something better to do.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Bravo Brian Kelly’s common sense ..each and every word.
Robert Joseph Fortier says
Nothing wrong with pot…but I have been looking for my stash since last week…Don’t remember where I hid it last…
A Concerned Observer says
Sorry sports fans, marijuana is a gateway drug. Smoking or otherwise ingesting anything containing THC for recreational use has but one desired result; to get high. Getting high is way to escape reality, to disconnect from life. According to the first line of this article (or Op Ed piece if you were) the proponent of this bill is “the state’s largest medical-marijuana operator”. Ya think he or she has financial gain as their sole motivation? Comparing marijuana cannot be directly compared to drinking alcohol and is suggested by those wishing to get high without running afoul of the law (a federal law BTW). Drinking alcohol to excess IS likened to using marijuana and does carry legal ramifications. A glass or two of wine or one or two beers does not constitute abuse. If you do not see the difference, pray tell, what flavor of marijuana pairs well with fish or beef?
I remember marijuana used to pair very well with anything munchie.
It’s a damn plant for God’s sake, not a gateway drug. Anyone who is going to abuse drugs can easily do it without pot.
I beg to differ with your stigma about marijuana being a “gateway drug.” You read too many government publishings about the harmful effects of marijuana, as only our government wants people like you to believe. Congratulations, you’ve guzzled enough government KoolAid to drown out reality.
I’m not a 24/7 user, but I will tell you first hand it’s not a gateway drug. However, people with addictive personalities don’t have the mental strength to say when is enough, and yes, those people would fit into your thinking. But marijuana doesn’t compare to the recent Oxycodone, Xanax, and other downer cocktails that pharmacists prescribed at record amounts, killing people every day throughout America. I’d much rather have the marijuana than that, any day.
Throughout my professional 34-year career I could not use illegal drugs. Since retirement, I’ve obtained the medical marijuana card for legitimate medical issues and have had no issues. Granted, I only use it at home and it’s not everyday, but it works. Our old career politicians need to step aside and get over the stigma that marijuana is bad for you. It’s not, and I’m a firm believer that it helps, and additionally, it’s better than prescribed medications consisting of pills. This is long overdue.