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Florida Marijuana Legalization Ballot Measure Does Not Have Enough Support To Pass, New Poll Says

A majority of Florida voters say they support a marijuana legalization initiative that will appear on the November ballot—but not enough to reach the steep 60 percent threshold for passage under the state Constitution, according to a new poll.



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The USA Today/Ipsos survey that was released on Saturday found that 56 percent of Florida registered voters and 49 percent of Floridia adults overall back the cannabis measure.


There’s been a mix of polling over the last year on the marijuana legalization initiative, with certain surveys signaling that there is enough support for approval. But this is the first to come out since the Florida Supreme Court cleared the measure for the ballot after rejecting the state attorney general’s constitutional challenge.

 

The poll, first reported by The Tallahassee Democrat, found that support for the proposal is strongest among Democrats (69 percent), followed by independents (63 percent) and Republicans (39 percent).


A regional breakdown shows that central Florida residents are more likely (54 percent) to back the measure than those in north or south Florida (49 percent and 38 percent, respectively).


Ipsos said it was also notable that “Floridians in Broward County or Palm Beach County are more likely than those in Miami-Dade County to say they would vote in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis (47 percent vs. 30 percent, respectively).”


The polling firm also said there were “no differences in self-reported plans to vote for recreational cannabis legalization by gender or age” but that “white Floridians are more likely than Hispanic Floridians to say they would vote in favor of recreational marijuana legalization this November (55% vs. 32%, respectively).”


The poll involved interviews with 1,014 Florida adults from April 5-7, with a +/-4.1 percentage point margin of error. The results were disaggregated to show differences in the general population and registered voters.


The survey also found that 54 percent of respondents are very or somewhat familiar with the state Supreme Court’s decision to allow the cannabis measure to appear on the ballot in November.


The findings underscore the challenges and opportunities for the Smart & Safe Florida campaign in the months ahead as they enter into the next phase of outreach and education.

Multiple marijuana companies are working to support that effort, donating a total of nearly $15 million to the campaign, including several multi-state operators, according to state filings that were released last week.


Trulieve, the main financial backer of the initiative, led the pack again with $9.225 million in donations during the first quarter. That follows the company previously contributing about $40 million as advocates worked to collect more than one million signatures to qualify for ballot placement.


If Florida voters approve a marijuana legalization initiative at the ballot, that could actually “improve quality of life” for residents—in contrast with the governor’s recent comments to the contrary—the CEO of Trulieve said last week.


“The sky has not fallen” with Florida’s implementation of medical cannabis legalization under an earlier initiative, “and folks see that choice is a good thing,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said during an interview on The Dales Report’s “Trade To Black” podcast.


Will Floridians ultimately pass the measure with at least 60 percent of the vote as is required for constitutional amendments in the state? Rivers says, “Hell yes.”


The comments about quality-of-life implications of cannabis legalization follow Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) prediction that voters will reject the marijuana initiative this November. He called the proposal “radical” and argued that it will “reduce the quality of life” in the state.

DeSantis, for his part, said earlier this month that enactment of the reform would mean “this state will start to smell like marijuana in our cities and towns,” which seems to be a particular concern for the governor, who has previously complained about the smell of cannabis in other jurisdictions.


“It will reduce the quality of life,” he said, adding that Florida already has a medical cannabis program that his administration implemented following voter approval of the reform in 2016.

“Do we really need to do more with that?” he asked. “Do we want to have more marijuana in our communities? I don’t think it’ll work out well, but it is a very, very broad amendment.”


Rivers said that “DeSantis has been consistent for a long time around his comments around the smell and around, you know, not necessarily being excited about having marijuana everywhere. I think there’s some additional education that needs to happen there, which we’ve been working on.”


As drafted, the measure if approved would change the state Constitution to allow existing medical cannabis companies in the state like Trulieve to begin selling marijuana to all adults over 21. It contains a provision that would allow—but not require—lawmakers to take steps toward the approval of additional businesses. Home cultivation by consumers would not be allowed under the proposal as drafted.


Adults 21 and older would be able to purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis, only five grams of which could be marijuana concentrate products. The three-page measure also omits equity provisions favored by advocates such as expungements or other relief for people with prior cannabis convictions.


Separately, economic analysts from the Florida legislature and the the governor’s office estimate that the marijuana legalization initiative would generate between $195.6 million and $431.3 million in new sales tax revenue annually if voters enact it. And those figures could increase considerably if lawmakers opted to impose an additional excise tax on cannabis transactions that’s similar to the ones in place in other legalized states.


Here’s what the Smart & Safe Florida marijuana legalization initiative would accomplish:


  • Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis for personal use. The cap for marijuana concentrates would be five grams.

  • Medical cannabis dispensaries could “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute marijuana products and marijuana accessories to adults for personal use.”

  • The legislature would be authorized—but not required—to approve additional entities that are not currently licensed cannabis dispensaries.

  • The initiative specifies that nothing in the proposal prevents the legislature from “enacting laws that are consistent with this amendment.”

  • The amendment further clarifies that nothing about the proposal “changes federal law,” which seems to be an effort to avoid past legal challenges about misleading ballot language.

  • There are no provisions for home cultivation, expungement of prior records or social equity.

  • The measure would take effect six months following approval by voters.


Here’s the full text of the ballot title and summary:


“Allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise; allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories. Applies to Florida law; does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law. Establishes possession limits for personal use. Allows consistent legislation. Defines terms. Provides effective date.”

The Florida Chamber of Commerce released a poll in January showing that a marijuana legalization initiative that may appear on the November ballot enjoys majority support from likely voters—but not quite enough to meet the state’s steep 60 percent threshold for passage.

Meanwhile, there’s significant interest in how former President Donald Trump, a Florida resident, will vote on the cannabis initiative, and whether he will publicly support or oppose it.

Also, a Florida bill that sought to cap THC potency if voters approved the legalization initiative at the ballot died this session, much to the relief of cannabis advocates and stakeholders.

Legislation to restrict consumable hemp products and ban delta-8 THC was approved by lawmakers and awaits DeSantis’s action.

Separately, a House subcommittee recently advanced a medical marijuana bill that would waive patient registration and renewal fees for service-disabled military veterans.

Despite his opposition to the initiative, DeSantis, the former GOP presidential candidate who dropped out of the race in January, previously accurately predicted that the state’s highest court would ultimately allow the measure on November’s ballot.

Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) successfully petitioned justices to prevent an earlier 2022 legalization initiative from receiving voter consideration.

DeSantis also weighed in on another relevant cannabis policy issue earlier this year when, while still a presidential candidate, he said that he doesn’t believe the federal gun ban for state-legal marijuana consumers is constitutional. Florida’s former agriculture commission, Nikki Fried, brought a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the rule, though the governor did not get involved.

Prior to dropping out, DeSantis also said that if elected president, he would “respect the decisions that states make” on marijuana legalization despite his personal view that the reform has a “negative impact.”

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