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Florida firm bankrolls drive to legalize recreational marijuana

Jeffrey Schweers, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Business News

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida-based Trulieve, one of the nation’s largest medical marijuana companies, has kickstarted a campaign to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in the Sunshine State.

The company has contributed $10 million to date to the Smart & Safe Florida campaign to get a constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot, and so far is its sole contributor. The organization already has spent $6.5 million to start collecting the nearly 900,000 signatures needed to bring the citizen initiative to a vote.

Florida has “22 million residents and 130 million tourists a year, so it’s a huge market opportunity. And we’re very, very bullish on the prospect of this initiative,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said during her keynote address on Sept. 14 at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago.

“Trulieve has consistently supported initiatives to give Floridians expanded access to safe cannabis products,” Trulieve spokesman Steve Vancore said. “Our goal has been, since day one, to provide high-quality safe cannabis products, and this fits in squarely with that goal.”

Trulieve was the first homegrown medical marijuana company to open a dispensary in Florida and now holds the lion’s share of the state market, at an estimated 50%. It stepped up with the seed money, expecting other medical marijuana licensees to contribute to the campaign, Vancore said.

“If it sees its way to the ballot, I think it passes overwhelmingly,” said Ben Pollara, a political consultant and medical marijuana activist who helped get a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot that successfully legalized full-potency marijuana for patients who met certain qualifications.

 

Yet, it’s unclear whether the conservative Florida Supreme Court will green light it as state law requires, Pollara said.

Two most recent efforts to get recreational marijuana use on the ballot failed their Supreme Court reviews in 2021. In one case, the court determined the ballot summary misled voters into believing that it would limit the use of marijuana, while the language of the other amendment would make them think there would be no criminal repercussions for using or possessing pot.

The Safe & Smart amendment’s ballot summary clearly states that it applies only to Florida law and “does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law.”

Rivers said the language of the Safe & Smart referendum has been thoroughly vetted and that she believes it will pass judicial review.

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