A bill that would have legalized recreational cannabis for adult consumption in the Sunshine State has failed.
The bill introduced by Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) would have established a regulated retail market for cannabis, and allowed individuals age 21 and older to possess, purchase and consume cannabis. However, Smith's bill was killed before it began its journey through the legislature.
"It got no hearing, no debate, no vote," Smith told the Sun Sentinel. "Just like they always do."
Despite the bill's failure, Smith said he was confident he still succeeded in moving the issue forward, saying his bill "created a lot of discussion and dialogue." Smith said that even if the political will isn't there, the public supports cannabis legalization, citing a University of North Florida poll that found 62 percent of respondents were in favor of treating cannabis like alcohol.
"Poll after poll has shown the majority of Floridians support adult-use cannabis," Smith said.
However, a new Republican-backed bill could make it much more difficult for voters to have their say on the matter by changing the rules around petition led ballot initiatives. Under the proposed regulations, all paid petition gatherers must be Florida residents and ballot initiatives must include a detailed financial impact statement outlining how much of the financial backing is coming from Florida residents.
While Sen. David Simmons (R) said the new bill is meant to prevent out-of-state "moneyed interests" from "hijacking" Florida's ballot initiative process, it also means Florida cannabis advocates will be limited in how they can work with marijuana legalization groups from outside the state. For Smith, this is a direct attack on Florida's cannabis legalization movement.
"They're changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game," Smith said. "A lot of activists feel very frustrated. They followed the rules, did what they were told, and now all of a sudden the Legislature wants to enact a new set of rules."
The rejection of recreational cannabis legalization in Florida comes just a few weeks after the state began allowing patients to smoke their medical marijuana.