Florida Could Decide on Recreational Marijuana in 2016

While the Florida state legislature continues to talk in circles around the issue of pot reform, a legion of cannabis activists have come forward with a ballot initiative aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016.  Regulate Florida, an organization seeking to repeal prohibition in the Sunshine State, received word last week from state election officials that their master plan to put the issue of legal weed on the ballot in the next presidential election had been approved.

This is big news for Florida voters who were already planning to head, full throttle, into the polls next year to cast a favorable ballot for United for Care’s proposal to establish a statewide medical marijuana program. Ultimately, as long as the forces behind Regulate Florida manage to collect the necessary 683,149 verified signatures, the voting population could likely be in a position to decide on whether they would prefer to legalize cannabis solely for medicinal purposes or go for broke, unleashing the herb altogether, by supporting a regulatory model that would allow cannabis to be sold in a manner similar to beer.

Tallahassee attorney Bill Wohlsifer and longtime cannabis advocate Michael Minardi penned the proposal, aptly deemed the “Florida Cannabis Act,” in war dance against the state legislature, which has proved sufficiently inadequate at launching even the simplest CBD-only market, not to mention their complete disregard in 2015 for even considering the reform of marijuana laws.

However, the latest initiative sets fire to the attitude in the state capital by giving voters the power to determine whether adults 21 and over should be allowed to possess up to an ounce of weed and cultivate as many as six plants for personal use. Additionally, the initiative seeks to create a taxed and regulated market that would allow retail pot shops to open up all across the state, giving Floridians something that resembles what is currently underway in Colorado, but with palm trees and sandy beaches.

Regulate Florida has until February 2016 to collect the required signatures needed to earn a spot in the ballot in the November 2016 election. However, because these types of campaigns are ultra-expensive, the group will need to raise millions of dollars in order to have a fighting chance at competing for the stoner vote. In the case of last year’s narrow failure of Amendment 2, which cost the state a medical marijuana program by around 2 points, United for Care reportedly raised over $4 million just to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to get on the ballot. What’s more is both Regulate Florida and United for Care may also have to contend with the confusion that is sure to come by having two marijuana-related initiatives presented in the polls. Even if the ballot language is fully understood by all, which is rarely ever the case, the issue could easily become split between those who only support medical marijuana and those who want total repeal, spoiling the chances for either initiative to pass.

Nevertheless, if Regulate Florida is successful at chiseling out a spot in the 2016 election, and voters come together in support of a fully legal pot trade, the state legislature would be forced to begin issuing licenses to cultivators and dispensaries by July 2017.

Learn more about the initiative here.


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