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Florida Lawmakers Attempts to Legalize Statewide Cannabis Industry

While coalitions and legislators continue to work towards legalizing medical marijuana in Florida, one Democratic lawmaker believes the state should throw caution to the wind by establishing a taxed and regulated recreational market similar to Colorado.

Senator Dwight Bullard, the reigning Chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, marched into the state legislature earlier this week with a proposal (Senate Bill 1176) that aims to legalize the cultivation and retail sale of cannabis. The bill, which replicates a piece of legislation that the lawmaker introduced last year, would allow individuals 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of sweet leaf, as long as it is grown by a state-licensed cultivator. It would also let residents to cultivate up to six plants in their backyard.

Bullard’s previous attempt to pass this bill was killed in committee without a hearing in 2014.

Although the fate of the last proposal is likely to happen again, Bullard recently told The Palm Beach Post that the attitudes of lawmakers are transitioning everyday to be more receptive to the idea of legalizing marijuana. He said in 2011, his mother, Senator Larcenia Bullard and Representative Jeff Clemens were nearly crucified when they attempted to persuade lawmakers to consider medical marijuana, but last year, those same naysayers approved cannabis oil.

“At that time it was like, under no circumstances but look where we are now,” Bullard said. “Strange things can happen in a short period of time.”

Then again, Bullard says he is not delusional in regards to the outcome of his efforts to legalize the leaf in 2015, but he believes it is important to maintain a consistent dialogue on this issue because eventually more lawmakers will begin to take it seriously.

However, if the bill does become a legislative miracle, the new law would force a $50 per ounce excise tax on marijuana sold in retail outlets, which would be overseen by an updated version of the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. The bulk of these funds, according to the proposal, would be allotted to the state’s generalized coffer with 5 percent eventually going to the Department of Health to fund cannabis research.

While there is not much faith that the recreational proposal will pass in 2015, the state has a real chance at legalizing medical marijuana in the next presidential election. Last year, Amendment 2 failed to gain enough traction to win a statewide medical marijuana program but only by a few points, which has supporters feeling confident about the rematch coming in 2016.


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