By: Matthew Ginder Can Florida Legalize it Next Election?
The 2020 election results proved successful for state marijuana legalization initiatives. All six ballot measures passed, including adult-use measures in South Dakota, Montana, New Jersey, and Arizona. With these results, it is of no surprise that the most recent Gallup poll shows support for marijuana legalization in the U.S. at an
all-time high of 67%. What’s become clear from this election is that, if given the opportunity, a majority of voters will approve the legalization of marijuana for adult-use.
not one of the now 15 states that have legalized adult-use marijuana. Past efforts – through initiative petitions and Florida’s Legislature – have failed. Now, more than ever, there are compelling reasons to legalize marijuana for adult-use in Florida. Legalization could stimulate Florida’s economy by creating jobs and provide a new source of tax revenue needed in light of COVID-19. Given the current composition of Florida’s Legislature and Governor DeSantis’ stated position, it is unlikely that a bill legalizing adult-use marijuana will be passed in the near term. Thus, as with medical marijuana in Florida, the best chance of legalizing adult-use marijuana in the state is through a ballot initiative for the 2022 election.
In Florida, citizens have the right to propose amendments to the Florida Constitution through an initiative petition process. Sponsors of an initiative must obtain a specific number of signed petitions by registered Florida voters. Once a certain percentage of verified signatures are obtained, the state’s Attorney General will petition the Florida Supreme Court for an advisory opinion as to whether the text of the proposed amendment complies with applicable Florida law. If the initiative survives scrutiny and obtains the requisite signatures, it is placed on the ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment requiring approval by a supermajority (i.e., 60%) vote.
Two adult-use marijuana initiatives fell short of making the ballot for 2020, but still have a chance for 2022. Make It Legal Florida sponsored an adult-use initiative that builds upon Florida’s medical marijuana program while Sensible Florida’s initiative seeks to create an adult-use program similar to Colorado. The state’s Attorney General has challenged both ballot initiatives, which remain pending before the Florida Supreme Court. It is not too late for other initiatives. Until then, the outcome of these two cases is the next pivotal step in determining whether Florida voters will have the opportunity to legalize marijuana for adult-use in 2022.