Effort to legalize pot in Florida goes public Friday


Along with an effort to legalize medical marijuana  that could be on the 2016 ballot in Florida next year, there could also be another constitutional amendment: This one calls for the outright legalization of marijuana in the Sunshine State.

Organizers and supporters of the Sensible Florida PAC will hold a news conference in Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning to announce a petition drive for a proposed new amendment to the Florida Constitution that will permit adults to grow and use marijuana by directing that it be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.

The proposed amendment was drafted by a team led by prominent Fort Lauderdale trial lawyer Michael C. Minardi, who successfully defended Bob and Cathy Jordan this year after Bob Jordan was charged with growing marijuana on behalf of his wife, who suffers from ALS. Also on the team is Tallahassee attorney Bill Wohlsifer, the 2014 Libertarian candidate for attorney general.

The effort to legalize marijuana in Florida is being called Regulate Florida. The ballot language reads:

Regulates marijuana (hereinafter “cannabis”) for limited use and growing by persons twenty-one years of age or older. State shall adopt regulations to issue, renew, suspend, and revoke licenses for cannabis cultivation, product manufacturing, testing and retail facilities. Local governments may regulate or prohibit facilities by vote, and license facilities if state fails to timely act. Does not permit industrial hemp cultivation, affect compassionate use of low-THC cannabis, nor immunize federal law violations.

Nineteen states in the U.S. allow for medical marijuana, and four others – Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Colorado –  allow the legal consumption of cannabis.

Regulate Florida would need 683,149 verified signatures in order to be placed on the ballot. If the measure makes it on the ballot, it could likely be competing with the medical marijuana constitutional amendment being pushed by Orlando attorney John Morgan. It’s the same effort that received 58 percent of the vote in 2014, just shy of the 60 percent needed for passage.

Ben Pollara, head of United for Care, the group leading the effort, told Florida Politics‘ James Rosica this week that his petition drive has collected about 350,000 signatures so far.

Last week Pollara told this reporter that he’s still considering the potential effect the drive for outright legalization would have on the effort to get medical marijuana passed in Florida.

“My inclination is that it would probably be a net positive,” he said. “I think it would certainly remove the argument that this is a backdoor means of legalization, when if medical marijuana and the legalization of marijuana were on the same ballot, I don’t how you could make that argument with a straight face, right? And so I’m still deciding how I feel about it as the campaign manager for the medical marijuana campaign.”

Pollara is also a Democrat working on Hillary Clinton‘s finance team. From that perspective, he thinks having Regulate Florida on the ballot would be very positive.

“It would draw out folks who maybe were not particularly excited about medical marijuana, but are more so about legalization,” he said. “But when they get in the voting booth they would vote yes on both.”

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].


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