Newest Legalization Effort in Florida Receives $5 Million in Support

Recreational cannabis legalization in Florida recently received a generous amount of funding from one of the state’s largest medical cannabis companies.

A legalization campaign recently launched by Smart & Safe Florida has garnered the support of medical cannabis company Trulieve and Grammy-nominated country music group, The Bellamy Brothers. Trulieve has donated $5 million to the effort that could lead to a measure on the 2024 ballots.

According to Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers, legalization is all about access. “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,” Rivers told News Service of Florida. “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.”

If passed, the amendment would legalize cannabis for recreational use for anyone 21 or older. This includes “possession, purchase, or use of marijuana and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise.”

It would also alter the state’s current “medical marijuana treatment centers” to “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell and distribute such products and accessories.” As of 2016, Florida requires that these businesses be vertically integrated, meaning they must control everything from cultivation to retail sales. According to WJCT News, this prevents smaller entrepreneurs from entering the industry.

Finally, should voters approve this measure, it would still allow legislators to participate in shaping regulations. “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,” said Rivers.

The measure also has the support of Smart & Safe Florida political committee head and musician David Bellamy, of the musical duo The Bellamy Brothers. The country group members are Florida natives who have previously partnered with Trulieve to create a line of cannabis products.

“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,” the duo told WJCT News in an email.

A different legalization initiative from the political committee Sensible Florida, which proposed to regulate cannabis like alcohol, was rejected in June 2021 by the Florida Supreme Court. Another initiative was rejected in April 2021 as well.

Despite these hurdles, Rivers is confident that Trulieve lawyers have analyzed these previous attempts to learn from the past. “Every initiative has provided some level of learning,” Rivers 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.”

Compared to previous attempts to legalize cannabis in Florida, Rivers believes that Trulieve’s strong support of medical cannabis patients could help get the word out about this new initiative. “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,” Rivers concluded.

But according to Rivers, Florida is home to many ardent advocates willing to help out. “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 added.

Advocates like The Bellamy Brothers, who believe that legalization in Florida is a step toward ending non-violent cannabis convictions. “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,” The Bellamy Brothers wrote.

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