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Make It Legal Florida punts on 2020 ballot initiative after too-ambitious petition drive

The group will instead shoot for 2022.

The group Make it Legal Florida will not put a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot, the group announced Monday.

“With the support of over 67 percent of Florida voters, Make it Legal Florida is proud to have gathered more than 700,000 signed petitions in the effort to bring adult-use cannabis to the Sunshine State,” the group wrote in a statement.

“The narrow timeframe to submit and verify those signatures has prompted our committee to shift focus to now gain ballot access in 2022.”

Make It Legal Florida is the official campaign for an adult-use cannabis amendment that would allow adults 21 years of age or older to purchase cannabis from a licensed medical marijuana treatment center regardless of medical necessity.

The effort requires 766,200 verified signatures by Feb. 1 to make the 2020 ballot. While the group says they’ve collected more than 700,000 signatures, only 294,403 of those had been certified by local supervisors of election offices as of Monday morning, less than half the necessary number and with less than one-month to go.

Make It Legal Florida’s announcement comes after a flurry of news surrounding the effort to legalize adult-use cannabis in Florida including the group’s $4.8 million in fundraising in the month of December and a bill Sen. Jeff Brandes’ filed in the legislature to accomplish similar goals.

Brandes’ bill faces challenges in the conservative legislature where cannabis-related efforts have frequently faced setbacks.

A 2020 ballot initiative would serve as a fail safe should Brandes’ bill not pass during the 2020 Legislative Session, which starts Tuesday.

“We’re looking forward to Supreme Court review of our efforts and working in collaboration with state leaders to ensure the supermajority of Floridians’ voices are heard,” the group wrote in a statement referencing requirements to obtain ballot language approval and, once on the ballot, to earn at least 60 percent plus one vote for adoption into the Florida constitution.

Make It Legal Florida also recently filed a lawsuit challenging the timeframe for signatures to be verified by local supervisors of elections.

Even if the challenge were successful, the effort would likely have needed several more weeks to compile enough verified petition signatures to make the 2020 ballot.

Still, their effort fared better than a competing measure to legalize adult-use cannabis by Sensible Florida, which only has 92,805 verified petition signatures according to the Florida Division of Elections.

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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