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Floridians won't get to vote on recreational marijuana this year

Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Make It Legal, an initiative to make recreational marijuana legal in Florida, announced Monday it will drop its bid to get on this year's ballot and focus on 2022.

The initiative was considered the strongest constitutional amendment bid to legalize marijuana in Florida because it was backed by major medical marijuana dispensaries already in the state. Make It Legal was led by California-based dispensary MedMen.

Nick Hansen, chairman of Make it Legal Florida, said the ballot initiative has gathered "more than 700,000 signatures" to bring recreational or "adult-use" cannabis to the state. But the narrow time frame to submit and verify the signatures prompted the committee to shift its focus to the 2022 ballot, he said.

Also on Monday, a bill was filed by Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg that would legalize marijuana for adult use and restructure Florida's marijuana industry, which now requires companies to grow, cultivate and sell medical marijuana sold in the state. It would allow growers to contract with processors and retailers.

Make It Legal had raised more than $8.6 million to support the petition drive, according to Florida's Division of Elections. Its signed petitions are valid for two years, so they can put the money toward the 2022 ballot effort.

To make the ballot, an initiative must gather 766,200 signatures by Feb. 1. The language then has to be approved by the state Supreme Court.

 

A separate petition by the group Regulate Florida snagged enough signatures in August for Supreme Court review. But the group has since also announced that it lacks enough signatures for the 2020 ballot.

The Florida attorney general, as well as state House and Senate leaders, have asked the Florida Supreme Court to reject the proposed constitutional amendments that would allow recreational marijuana use.

In briefs filed with the court, they contend wording of the petitions would be misleading because they wouldn't fully inform voters that pot remains illegal under federal law.

A ballot amendment needs 60% of the vote to become law.

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