Will Florida Legalize Recreational Weed in 2019?
Support is building for recreational marijuana in Florida for 2019.
Currently, although Florida has a medical marijuana program, recreational use of marijuana is not yet legal in the Sunshine State. But what are the chances that Florida will legalize recreational weed in 2019?
In November of 2016, Floridians approved a constitutional amendment which was designed to vastly upgrade a medical marijuana program which began back in 2014. The original program only allowed the use of cannabis oils for those with life-threatening conditions. The list of conditions which qualified residents for a medical marijuana card was broadened to include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and multiple sclerosis, or any “debilitating medical condition of the same kind or class as or comparable to those above” for which the medical use of marijuana would outweigh the potential health risks.
In a special session held in 2017, the Florida Senate passed bill SB8A making it illegal for medical marijuana patients to purchase dried flower and to grow cannabis at home. Those rules are currently being contested in court.
Amendment 2 did not change Florida’s drug possession laws. However, around the same time, another bill was introduced which would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Unfortunately, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee “temporarily postponed” review of the bills.
Sadly, Florida’s marijuana laws are currently among the most strict in the nation. The possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana is punishable by a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000, however possession of more than 20 grams is a felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000.
A handful of Florida municipalities have opted to decriminalize the personal use of marijuana. For example, in the city of Orlando police officers have the option of writing a citation which comes with a fine of anywhere from $100 to $500. However, payment of the citation constitutes an admission of guilt and can still result in a criminal record. Miami-Dade County, Tampa, Key West, and Orlando have all decriminalized personal recreational use.
What will it take to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use in Florida?
There are two ways that marijuana can be legalized in Florida. The first is by an act of the legislature. The other method would be for a voter initiative to develop a proposal and gather enough signatures to get the measure onto a statewide ballot.
The legalization of marijuana by Florida’s legislature is highly unlikely given the conservative control of the state’s Senate. However, a ballot initiative is highly likely given that this has happened in the past. Although voters have not yet passed a full legalization initiative attitudes toward recreational marijuana use in the state, as with those of the rest of the country, are turning in favor of legalization.
If a ballot initiative petition does collect enough signatures, a vote would not take place until November of 2020, or possibly 2022. Many cannabis advocates in Florida are currently working diligently to make that happen.