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Make it Legal Florida raised $4.8 million in December as adult-use pot initiative looks grim

With less than a month left, the group has collected fewer than half the needed signatures.

In last ditch effort to reach a daunting petition signature goal, the group Make It Legal Florida raised more than $4.8 million in December.

The group is spending heavily on a petition drive to put a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot to legalize cannabis for adult use regardless of medical necessity.

The group must collect 766,200 signatures by Feb. 1. As of Monday morning, the group had tallied just 294,403 signatures. They’re less than half way to the mandatory signature threshold and have less than a month to bridge the gap.

Of the $4.8 million raised in December, the group spent more than $4 million. They closed out 2019 with more than $8.6 million raised and of that, have spent more than $7.7 million.

Almost all of the group’s December contributions came from medical cannabis companies Surterra Holdings, doing business as Parallel, and MedMen Enterprises.

Surterra contributed $3.54 million while MedMen donated $1.31 million.

The two companies have almost exclusively funded the adult-use cannabis push.

Almost all of Make It Legal Florida’s expenditures have gone to petition gathering, which pays individuals to collect signatures at public places, direct mail to encourage voters to sign the ballot petition and postage for that mail.

Other expenses include consulting, social media, legal services and petition verification. Local supervisors of election must verify petition signatures are valid before they can be counted.

Make It Legal Florida is challenging the state’s petition signature process in Leon County Circuit Court arguing restrictions placed on paid signature gatherers last year they say makes the process onerous.

However, other groups have successfully reached the petition signature threshold including for a $15 minimum wage, to change primary elections, and assess language in the constitution regarding what a citizen is.

The group faces another hurdle if it does collect the signatures needed to make the ballot. The Florida Attorney General’s office would also have to review and approve the ballot language.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Brandes filed legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis similar to the Make It Legal proposal. That bill serves as a legislative alternative to the ballot initiative.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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