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Bills filed to legalize ‘adult-use,’ or recreational, marijuana in Florida

HB 1117 would legalize adult pot use. HB 1119 would tax it.

Democratic state Reps. Michael Grieco and Carlos Guillermo Smith have filed legislation to make recreational marijuana legal for adults ages 21 or over.

The measure (HB 1117) goes further than bills that Smith, of Orlando, has filed previously to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

In fact, Grieco’s and Smith’s bill is similar to one introduced in past sessions by then-state Rep. Randolph Bracy, now a state senator, that went nowhere. Grieco, of Miami Beach, also filed another bill (HB 1119) to create an excise tax on marijuana sales.

But, given House Speaker Jose Oliva’s dislike for smokable marijuana even under Florida’s medical marijuana statutes, the legalization bills are not likely to get heard.

In fact, as one House Republican said privately on Wednesday, “There’s a better chance of the Green New Deal passing than an adult-use pot bill moving in 2019.”

A comprehensive cannabis bill, addressing legal issues with the state law that implements the 2016 state constitutional amendment authorizing medicinal marijuana, is expected to be introduced this Session by Sen. Wilton Simpson and state Rep. Ray Rodrigues.

Simpson, the Trilby Republican in line to become Senate President after Bill Galvano, chairs what used to be the Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee, now called Innovation, Industry, and Technology; Rodrigues is an Estero Republican and chair of the House Health & Human Services Committee.  

Most importantly, marijuana remains generally illegal under federal law.

In the meantime, bills to allow smokable medical marijuana (HB 7015SB 182) from Rodrigues and Sen. Jeff Brandes are both heading for the floor under Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ demand of a bill by mid-March.

Smith said he’s supporting all measures to decriminalize and eventually legalize marijuana in various forms and argues that’s what polls show Floridians want as well.

“I wanted to join Rep. Grieco in calling for legalization of recreational cannabis for adult use because people want it to happen. The majority of Floridians want it to happen,” Smith said. “I support all progress we’ve made toward making that happen.

HB 1117 would exempt personal possession and use of small amounts by people age 21 or older.

The bill would set up a system for Florida to license and regulate businesses to grow, produce, package and sell personal amounts of marijuana, overseen by the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, which would be renamed the Division of Alcoholic Beverages, Marijuana and Tobacco. The bill also would create a trust fund to receive revenue from taxes.

Grieco’s HB 1119, which would require a super majority approval because it is a tax bill, would create licensing fees for marijuana businesses and an excise tax equal to $50 per ounce.

“There’s no question that taxing adult cannabis use will be of great benefit to our state,” Smith said. “We are constantly looking for ways to fund public education, transportation, affordable housing and other things, and taxing it after implementing legal adult use, I think, is the smart way to go.

It’s “a no brainer,” he added. “We should have done this a long time ago.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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