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It’s official that gutsy lawmakers in the Sunny State of Florida are trying to make the future brighter for those who like to light up and smoke cannabis for whatsoever purpose. With many Florida lawmakers pushing for changes to marijuana laws, we are hoping to see recreational marijuana sooner than later.
Orlando lawmaker Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith recently filed a bill in the state Legislature to legalize recreational marijuana in Florida. His bill was joined with Sen. Jeff Brandes’ bill to introduce two respective laws.
This article looks at Florida marijuana laws and how far they have come towards legalization. In order to understand current contentions of lawmakers, we thought it would suffice to initially look into the past of cannabis laws in Florida – also as related to the grander war on drugs.
The Current Law on Cannabis in Florida
Cannabis in Florida is as of yet, illegal for recreational use – and legal for medical use. Patients with a licensed doctor’s recommendation can obtain medical marijuana from licensed FL dispensaries. They must qualify for a patient identification card after discussing their condition with a physician and establishing residency in the state.
As things stand now, physician recommendations may not exceed more than three 70-day supply limits of cannabis. There is also no specified limit on the amount of cannabis a medical marijuana patient may possess. It’s also clear that home cultivation is not permitted.
The current law furthermore states that possession of up to 20 grams is a misdemeanor offense that’s punishable by up to a year in prison, or a fine of up to $1000, in addition to the suspension of one's driver's license.
Several cities and counties have passed restructurings to enforce lesser penalties, with Florida in limbo until now. By amending the Florida Constitution, recreational marijuana now finally has a chance of becoming legal in Florida. However, the amendment is still gaining signatures for a place on the 2022 ballot – and until then, cannabis remains a controlled Schedule 1 substance.
The Bills Put Forward in Favor of Recreational Cannabis
According to the Florida Legislature’s website, Smith’s HB 343 bill authorizes person 21 years of age or older to possess & deliver marijuana products in a specified amount. Sen. Brandes’ bill, SB 710, supplements the former by revising the sales tax exemption for the sale of marijuana and marijuana delivery for those qualified to purchase it.
Another one of the Florida lawmakers pushing for changes to Marijuana Laws, is Nick Hansen, chairman of Make it Legal Florida. By leading the petition to get a constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot to make adult recreational marijuana freely available, Hansen is driving the legislation.
Based on the success and normalization of medical marijuana in Florida, Hansen contends the chances for the bill to pass are good once the amendment can make it onto the ballot.
Intentions of the New Laws
The bills would ideally establish a robust and free-market regulatory method to the governance of the cultivation, processing, and sales of adult-use marijuana.
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The legislation would moreover allow people of age 21 and older to purchase and use limited amounts of marijuana without having to obtain a medical marijuana card.
Both lawmakers have introduced similar legislation in the past. Being a personal liberty issue for Sen. Brandes, he firmly believes it’s all a matter of time before adult use is legal. Brandes also firmly reckons it will generate additional revenue for the state.
Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, Nikki Fried, shared her piece of the pie encompassing three reasons why she supports the legalization legislation. According to her, it would strengthen the economy, start to right the wrongs in the current flawed justice system and be a good source of state revenue altogether.
Proclaimed to have the power to help in a variety of ways, it’s not just the revenue that comes in in the grand scheme of things. It also has a lot to do with the fact that law enforcement is now focusing on more serious crimes than trying to find somebody who is walking around with a joint or two.
The bill would allow adults in Florida to purchase 2.5 ounces of cannabis or a product with up to 2 grams of THC content. Smoking marijuana in public would remain illegal either way. But the fact remains, according to many, the need to end Florida’s prohibition of responsible adult use of cannabis is long overdue.
We are in agreement that these proposed bills create a sensible framework for legalization that can earn the support needed to pass the Florida legislature. It doesn’t include everything we want to see yet, but it’s certainly a good start to finally move past the draconian cannabis ban era.
The Role of the Public in Boosting Legalization
In the view of Brandes and his supports, most states resort to a citizen-driven ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. The reason for this, being because most legislatures don't have the courage to do what’s right.
Other groups in Florida also are pursuing signatures necessary to put constitutional amendments on the ballot in order to expand the legal use of adult-use cannabis.
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One such amendment would allow using medical marijuana to treat mental health problems. Another would allow adults to grow cannabis for their own medicinal use, while yet another group wants marijuana regulated in the same way that alcohol sales are regulated.
It will require millions more signatures to collect at least 300,000 more to secure a spot on the 2022 ballot. And once this goal is achieved, they have to clear a ballot language review before going to the Florida Supreme Court.
Florida Lawmakers Pushing for Changes to Marijuana Laws Recap
We can safely assume and conclude that Florida voters prefer a more controlled marketplace for medical cannabis that provides them with a comfort level. And that shared and sought comfort level makes Florida more likely to legalize marijuana in its recreational form.
As an interesting fact, one survey shows well over 90% of American adults believe marijuana should be legal. So, why shouldn’t Floridians have access to this previously controversial American novelty, next? With some fierce Florida lawmakers pushing for changes to marijuana laws, it might happen sooner than later.