High hopes, slim chances: recreational marijuana’s future in Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – This year is not likely the year recreational marijuana will be legalized in Florida. Two constitutional amendments were found wanting by the state Supreme Court, and efforts in the legislature are a long shot.

State Representative Spencer Roach tried to limit THC in medical marijuana last year.

“I think it’s accurate to describe that bill as prohibitionist in nature,” said Roach.

This year Roach has teamed with Democrat Andrew Learned, who last year co-sponsored a legalization bill. 

“I want to try to be the guy who’s effective and gets things done,” said the Tampa Democrat. 

Now, the two would make medical marijuana more consumer-friendly by testing it, requiring more training for recommending doctors, and lengthening the time a patient’s card is valid. But when it comes to legalization, Learned said:

“I am practical in the sense I know that bill isn’t going anywhere.” 

But that isn’t stopping House and Senate members from pushing recreational marijuana. Rep. Yvonne Hinson (D-Gainesville) is the sponsor of a legalization bill.

“Is arresting people for this largely victimless activity helping anybody?” She asked during a news conference.

The 157-page bill would also expunge marijuana convictions and grant clemency to low-level offenders. Rep. Ann Eskamani (D-Orlando) said the legislation could also do a lot of good going forward.

“Let’s also see this as a source of revenue to cover so many of the expenses we have in our state where every person benefits,” said the Democrat.

Legalizing marijuana is almost certain to be an issue in the governor’s race. Governor Ron DeSantis has said twice he’s opposed to it, but all three Democrats running against him are for it.

We asked Representative Hinson how she would deal with the governor’s opposition: “I’m going to pray about that one” she said.

And the earliest voters could take the matter into their own hands is 2024, and if successful, it would likely take two to three more years before the first bud was sold.

Sponsors of the legislation said more than 42,000 people were arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2018. 

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