Another year has come and gone, with a cannabis legalization bill dead on the vine in the Legislature.
Sen. Victor Torres’ measure (SB 1576) would have made adult use cannabis legal for those at least 21 years old, establishing a so-called “Division of Cannabis Management” in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to regulate the herb, including in concentrated and other derivative forms.
Possession limits would have been capped at 2.5 ounces per user and six marijuana plants, meaning that home cultivation would be allowed in the unlikely event this bill becomes law. Usage would be allowed in a “non-public place,” and violators would be subject to a $100 fine. Minors attempting to buy cannabis would be subject to a series of progressive fines, with the third offense being a $600 hit.
The bill also contemplated consumption establishments, where smoking — but not vaping — would be allowed, as would the “ingestion” of marijuana via “prepared food.” That food could have been taken off premises provided the packaging denotes that it contains THC. These establishments would have to have been at least 500 feet away from the doors of a public school, and would have been banned from selling product between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.
Localities could have opted out via ordinances passed by September 2024.
Torres’ bill also contained equity provisions, including stipulating that a minority business enterprise would be given preference in a competitive application process.
There was no House companion for the bill, and now legalization advocates will have to pin their hopes on a citizen initiative for the 2024 ballot.
Smart & Safe Florida has been largely funded by Trulieve, which has donated $30.5 million to the cause already. That initiative has just over 635,000 valid signatures. It needs 891,589 to make the 2024 ballot.
The amendment push does not include homegrown cannabis, but would permit Floridians to “own, buy, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for personal, non-medical use.”
Recreational cannabis bills have been filed and failed over the years in the Legislature, with former Gov. Rick Scott and current Gov. Ron DeSantis not being marijuana fans.
“What I don’t like about it is if you go to some of these places that have done it, the stench when you’re out there, I mean, it smells so putrid,” DeSantis has said. “I want people to be able to breathe freely.”
At least for one more year, the Governor will get his wish.