Ever since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational cannabis use about a decade ago, dozens of other states have followed in their footsteps. In fact, nearly half of the states in the country have recreational cannabis laws on the books now, which makes one curious as to where Florida is on cannabis legalization.
There is medical marijuana available in the state, which leads one to believe that the legalization of recreational cannabis isn’t too far away. Cannabis legalization could be an economic driver for Florida that’s tough to rival. Here are some key insights about the path to cannabis legalization in the Sunshine State.
Status of medical marijuana
Medical marijuana was initially introduced to Floridians back in 2019. Florida SB 186 signed into action by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis allows Florida residents to possess and consume up to 2.5 ounces of dry herb cannabis every five weeks. Physical possession of a medical marijuana card is necessary for avoiding prosecution from police.
While Florida medical marijuana patients aren’t allowed to grow their own cannabis, there are numerous dispensaries throughout the state they can purchase from. The amendment allowing for the medical marijuana bill to be signed into law was placed on the ballot of the 2016 election. It passed by an overwhelming majority of 71.3% to 28.7. Some of the conditions that allow Florida residents access to medical marijuana include Lupus, Migraines, Arthritis, HIV along with a handful of others.
Biggest obstacles to legal recreational marijuana
Florida voters demonstrated glaring support for medical marijuana sales in the state. Taking that into consideration, it’s fair to question what barriers cannabis advocates face when it comes to getting it legalized recreationally in the state.
According to Deputy Director of the Center for Effective Public Management for The Brookings Institution, John Hudak, there’s no bigger obstacle for cannabis legalization in Florida than the Governor himself. “The government is vehemently opposed to that type of policy change and [Ron DeSantis’s] influence is quite strong,” says Hudak. “As long as DeSantis is Governor it would have to go through a ballot initiative.”
Unless State leadership changes in Florida, grassroots mobilization is the most foreseeable path to cannabis legalization for now.
When is the soonest cannabis could become legal?
To say that Floridians are eager for the legalization of cannabis would be an understatement. Unfortunately, the state Supreme Court rejected the language of a ballot measure proposed by Regulate Florida, which had plans for getting it on the ballots in time for the 2022 midterm elections, were forced to shift their attention to 2024.
While the news may seem bleak at the moment, according to Sarah A. Chase, the Executive Director for the council for Federal Cannabis Regulation, there could be a silver lining with having citizens vote on the ballot measure in 2024 as opposed to this coming November. “Clearly, there is overwhelming support for legalization in Florida, and what we tend to see is that the demographic groups who favor legalization are motivated to turn out at higher rates during presidential, rather than midterm, election years,” she said. “So, 2024 makes sense. Also, this only enhances the broader push for federal legalization and responsible regulatory standards and guidance.”
Another benefit of waiting until 2024 is that it gives state officials more time to study the ways other states have successfully implemented recreational cannabis sales. Says Chase, “One would hope to see Florida really take the time to study the best practices of other states, and to really listen to both the research and regulatory scientists in order to set high-quality standards to best protect American consumers and ensure health and safety.”
The wait for legal cannabis in Florida may continue longer than proponents planned, but if everything goes accordingly from a planning and preparation standpoint, the wait may be worthwhile for consumers.