Floridians introduce legislation, joint resolution, and petitions to legalize recreational marijuana

The sun may be setting for marijuana prohibition in the Sunshine State. Two Florida legislators have filed a bill that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and over in the state.

State Representatives Carlos Guillermo Smith and Michael Grieco filed House Bill 1117 earlier this week. HB 1117 would allow Floridians who are 21 years old and over to “use, possess, and transport” up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and “marijuana accessories”.

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Grieco told Orlando Weekly that he and Smith worked tirelessly on the bill to “ensure access, protect local decision-making, and create a revenue-generating structure for the state.”

“With bipartisan efforts in criminal justice reform reaching new levels this year, it is the right time for Florida to start having a real conversation about legalizing marijuana for adult use,” Grieco said. “It’s coming one way or another, either by a 2020/2022 ballot measure or from us here in the legislature.”

Smith concurred, adding that “There’s no reason cannabis can’t be regulated in ways similar to alcohol. Continuing to criminalize responsible adult use of cannabis just doesn’t make sense."

He continued: “No one is dying from cannabis overdoses, but they are getting arrested and being given criminal records for no good reason. A majority of Floridians support legalizing adult-use cannabis, so let’s do this already,” Smith concluded.

The clamoring for cannabis has hit the pot-political ceiling.

Smith was not wrong when he said that a majority of the Sunshine State’s voting population is anxious for the legalization of recreational marijuana use. In fact, this bill comes hot on the heels of another Central Florida lawmaker introducing a resolution to allow for legal adult use of cannabis.

State Senator Randolph Bracy introduced Senate Joint Resolution 1298 which would create a state constitutional amendment allowing the adult use of marijuana in Florida.

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Additionally, two citizen groups have started petitions in the hopes of putting a marijuana policy on the 2020 ballot. These two groups, Regulate Florida and Floridians for Freedom, both collected signatures in support of marijuana at a rally in early February.

The Regulate Florida petition proposes to regulate pot similarly as alcohol, allowing adults to use it, gift it, and grow a certain amount in their homes. Floridians for Freedom wants similar pot policies, but they would also allow the state to regulate the purchase and sale of marijuana for health and safety purposes.

Bracy hopes that his resolution passes so that he can get the issue out ahead of the voters.

“We’re moving toward legalization,” Bracy told Fox 35. “The underground market is still flourishing. We’re either just gonna hide our faces in the sand, or we decide that it’s time to legalize marijuana.”

What would HB 1117 do?

HB 1117 would allow Floridians 21 and older to possess, grow, and cultivate up to six marijuana plants, including the seedlings. The good news is you grow it, you keep it!

Grieco and Smith argue that the marijuana measure would allow people to enjoy pot and still establish a structure for the sale and taxation of cannabis.

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“Colorado has collected over one billion dollars in taxes from marijuana sales since 2014, so imagine what bigger, sunnier Florida could do,” Grieco said.

HB 1117 has joined the national movement to end the prohibition of marijuana, but it is facing a bit of an uphill legislative battle. Florida currently enjoys a Republican majority in the state legislature, and Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a Republican, is currently only pro-medical pot.

Voters in the Sunshine State approved medical marijuana in 2016, and DeSantis called for legislation allowing patients to smoke the medicine by March 15, but Smith and Grieco remain undeterred.

“It’s just kind of a no-brainer, you know?” Smith said. “There’s no reason why the state cannot regulate cannabis in a similar way [as] they regulate alcohol use.”

Florida’s regular legislative session begins early next week. Pot politicos in Florida will certainly have an interesting legislative season.

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