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Recreational marijuana initiative gains support from Florida's largest medical marijuana operator

Getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot in the state of Florida is not an easy process, experts say.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A new initiative to make recreational marijuana legal in Florida in 2024 is being backed by Trulieve, Florida's largest medical marijuana operator, in the form of $5 million.

"We've supported other initiatives, but this one looks like it was very well researched, and we had a part in that, in making sure that before we put our financial resources behind it, that it was the kind of initiative that would pass the muster of the Supreme Court,” Trulieve spokesperson Steven Vancore said. 

Advocates said although it might not be great for community optics, companies like Trulieve are necessary to push the movement forward.

"Anything that looks corporate introduced or corporate sponsored is something that obviously people are going to be leery about,” said Moriah Barnhart, the co-founder of CannaMoms and WISE Florida. “The entire initiative becomes a multi-million endeavor, and without huge, large sponsorships, we simply won't be able to do the leg work.”

Getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot in the state of Florida is not an easy process. For the 2024 election year, 891,589 registered voters have to sign a petition, then it goes to the State Supreme Court which decides whether or not it meets specific criteria. It’s a lengthy, and often very expensive process, according to Vancore.

"You're literally talking a $30 million effort to get on the ballot because of the very severe restrictions they put in place,” Vancore said.

Some lawmakers and advocates said they are worried about the way the industry is designed and it leaves very little room for the possibility of small businesses to get involved. Under current law, medical marijuana companies are required to control everything from seed to sale, meaning it's a very expensive and wide-ranging endeavor. 

"It would be like McDonald's growing its own cows and its own tomatoes to make a hamburger. That means most small businesses can't afford to participate," said Florida State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. "Unfortunately, today the way the structure works is if you want to get into the business at all, you have to do all of the business. Unless you have $40 or $50 million, you're not going to be able to participate in the marijuana business in Florida.” 

There have been recreational marijuana amendments and bills proposed in the past, so what makes this one different? Supporters said it’s the way it’s worded.

"Trulieve wouldn't have donated $5 million to the initiative unless it was very likely to pass Supreme Court review," Barnhart said. "The greatest minds in Florida, closest to the inner circles of the political climate and the current sitting Supreme Court and Desantis' administration agree that the verbiage will pass.”

Trulieve says the constitutional amendment checks all the boxes.

“The Supreme Court has a very narrow pathway to go down. So we think it meets that metric,” Vancore said.

WISE Florida says they plan to file a similarly worded “home-grow” amendment proposal in the next two to three weeks.


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