In 2016, supporters of medical marijuana convinced Floridians their campaign was not a precursor to legalization of recreational marijuana.
We must have been high.
The press to get recreational marijuana on the ballot in 2020 is in full swing and it’s being funded by, you guessed it, medical marijuana providers.
There are three petition drives underway to get recreational marijuana on Florida’s November ballot.
If enough signatures are collected and the ballot language passes court muster, 60% of voters would need to approve a proposed amendment for it to pass.
Of the three, only one, the measure promoted by the political committee Make It Legal Florida appears to have a chance to meet the 766,200-signature threshold.
At the latest reporting, Make It Legal Florida had 239,000 signatures and has filed a lawsuit seeking additional time to gather valid petitions beyond the current Feb. 1 deadline.
Funding for the committees parallels the signature totals. Floridians for Freedom reports $23,000 in contributions; Sensible Florida reports $219,000. Make It Legal Florida reports nearly $4 million. It has spent about $3.7 million, almost all of it on petition gathering, petition verification and postage.
The money behind Make It Legal Florida comes from two main sources, Surterra Holdings Inc. of Atlanta and MM Enterprises of Los Angeles.
MM Enterprises is better known as MedMen with eight medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida, the closest to Southwest Florida being in Sarasota.
Surterra has three dozen “wellness centers” in Florida, including one in Bonita Springs.
One criticism leveled at the Make It Legal Florida version of full legalization is that it would limit purveyors of recreational marijuana to places that also provide medical marijuana.
That would create a near monopoly and bar small start-ups and home-grown product from the market, opponents argue.
Through their websites and promotional materials, MedMen and Surterra paint a picture of a blissful, healthy world buoyed by marijuana in its many forms.
“We’re here to empower you and your family to unlock all the benefits of cannabis with the safest, highest quality products and a welcoming experience that’s designed to help you feel your best.
“We’re making cannabis as accessible as possible to everyone who wants it,” Surterra proclaims.
It offers varieties with names like, “Sunset Sailin’” and “Island Time.”
MedMen offers gift cards and rewards points.
It makes no secret of its advocacy for relaxation of marijuana laws.
“MedMen is the single largest financial supporter of progressive marijuana laws at the local, state and federal levels, giving directly to pro-legalization groups, industry organizations and political candidates,” its website states.
An argument can be made that Florida’s early experience with medical marijuana has been a success.
The narrowly drawn list of qualifying conditions seems to have been effective at preventing sham medical practices from prescribing pot to anyone and everyone who can fake a symptom.
Meanwhile, the truly ill who can most benefit from the treatment are able to get it.
But recreational marijuana is a far cry from tightly controlled medical application, and Florida voters ought to be wary.
There’s plenty of evidence indicating marijuana use has downsides, especially for the developing brains of adolescents and young adults.
Suggestions that medical marijuana would not be a foot in the door for recreational marijuana turned out not to be accurate.
Promises of a marijuana-fueled utopia are likewise to be believed only by those who are under the influence themselves.
(Connect with Brent Batten at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook).
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