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Newest Legalization Effort in Florida Receives $5 Million in Support

A legalization campaign recently launched by Smart & Safe Florida has garnered the support of medical cannabis company Trulieve and Grammy-nominated country music group, The Bellamy Brothers. Trulieve contributed $5 million, which could result in a 2024 measure.

Kim Rivers CEO Trulieve believes legalization boils down to accessibility. “We came into this with a mission to provide access to high-quality products that are safe and have an appropriate value proposition to give folks control over their—in the original days—medical journey,” Rivers told News Service of Florida. “I don’t think that changes here. I mean, in effect we are at our core about expanding the opportunity for access to safe legal product, which is what this would allow us to continue to do.”

This amendment will legalize recreational cannabis use by anyone aged 21 years or older if it is passed. This includes “possession, purchase, or use of marijuana and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise.”

It would also alter the state’s current “medical marijuana treatment centers” to “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell and distribute such products and accessories.” As of 2016, Florida requires that these businesses be vertically integrated, meaning they must control everything from cultivation to retail sales. WJCT news reports that this prohibits small entrepreneurs from getting into the business.

Finally, if the voters approve this measure it will still permit legislators to influence regulation. “Any amendment in the state of Florida has to be very careful in terms of single subjects with this court and so I do know, speaking with the lawyers, that there was a very high focus on keeping this really focused around authorizing adult use and then allowing the Legislature to develop policy,” said Rivers.

The measure also has the support of Smart & Safe Florida political committee head and musician David Bellamy, of the musical duo The Bellamy Brothers. Trulieve has previously collaborated with the members of this country group to develop a line cannabis products.

“As we travel the country, we see the benefits of adult use and as Florida residents we love the ‘freedom state’ moniker and believe that Florida needs to join the millions of Americans whose adults are free to use cannabis without fear of being incarcerated,” the duo told WJCT News in an email.

The Florida Supreme Court rejected a different legalization proposal from Sensible Florida that would have allowed cannabis to be regulated like alcohol. In April 2021, another initiative was also rejected.

Rivers believes that Trulieve lawyers will have learned from past mistakes, despite these obstacles. “Every initiative has provided some level of learning,” Rivers said. “With this initiative, the authors have taken a hard look at the Supreme Court rulings surrounding the previous efforts and taken that into consideration. We believe it’s a very appropriate and narrowly focused amendment that does defer appropriately to the Legislature.”

Compared to previous attempts to legalize cannabis in Florida, Rivers believes that Trulieve’s strong support of medical cannabis patients could help get the word out about this new initiative. “One of the interesting aspects here is that we do have (a) medical-cannabis market and we have hundreds of thousands of patients in Florida who are utilizing medical cannabis regularly. So our ability to reach out and to have more direct communication…is a bit unique from a positioning perspective,” Rivers concluded.

Rivers says that Florida has many passionate advocates who are willing to assist. “While we’re happy to provide investment, we also do believe that there are a lot of folks who are very passionate about this and I expect to have a great engagement across the community,” she added.

The Bellamy Brothers and other advocates believe legalization of cannabis in Florida will help end non-violent marijuana convictions. “We see it every day and hear it from everyone we speak with, that the idea of putting adults in jail and ruining their lives for using cannabis is crazy. We have also read the polls and see consistent and strong support for an effort to allow adults to use cannabis,” The Bellamy Brothers wrote.