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Is Recreational Marijuana Next for Florida?

It took Amendment 2 millions of supporters, the strong backing of $6.2 million, and two turns on the ballot to finally win approval in Florida in 2016. The amendment fully legalized the use of medicinal cannabis in the state as it expanded access to the drug for medical patients and broadened the conditions patients must meet to qualify for its use. As we inch closer to the 2018 midterm election, marijuana advocates ponder is recreational marijuana next?

Regulate Florida Struggles to Gain Support for the Florida Cannabis Act

To change Florida's marijuana laws, voters must work to amend the state's constitution. A simple majority vote (51% of voters in favor of the amendment) won't work; the proposed legislation must have a minimum of 61% of the vote for an amendment to become law. On its second try, Amendment 2 gained the support of 71% of Florida voters. Currently, the Florida Cannabis Act -- which requests full legalization for recreational marijuana -- has too few signatures to make an appearance on the ballot.

The Florida Cannabis Act

Of all the pieces of proposed legislation seeking to fully legalize marijuana in the Sunshine State, the Florida Cannabis Act has gained the most steam. This act seeks for the state to regulate marijuana the way it does alcohol. The Regulate Florida campaign and its supporters hope to change the Florida constitution to make recreational marijuana use legal for adults 21 and up.

The Florida Cannabis Act would give Florida residents the ability to grow, possess, and sell cannabis while regulating the drug just like alcohol. It would eliminate several marijuana offenses that currently place thousands of nonviolent offenders behind bars. Some of the components of the act include:

  • Allowing persons 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana

  • Allowing up to 6 marijuana plants per household, only 3 of which may be mature or flowering

Currently, the act needs 750,000 signatures for a spot on the ballot. As of July 2017, supporters have raised $245,000 to get the word out and have obtained just 20,000 signatures.

What Would Happen if Marijuana Were Legal in Florida?

Many of the anticipated effects of legalizing marijuana are positive.Legalizing recreational marijuana would reduce the number of nonviolent offenders in jails and prisons across the state. States that already permit recreational marijuana have saved millions of dollars in incarceration costs. Additionally, arrests for possessing cultivating, or distributing marijuana have plummeted. That's not to say that a person can possess or grow as much marijuana as he wants; rather, one can deduce that law enforcement officers are focusing on pursuing more serious crimes.

Legalizing recreational marijuana can also open up an avenue for tax revenue. Tax revenues in states like Colorado and Washington greatly exceeded projections when legal marijuana sales began. Predictions for marijuana sales in Florida range from $138 million to over $5 billion. Between $8 million and $338 million of that revenue could be tax revenue.

What is the Difference Between Legalization and Decriminalization?

The act of decriminalizing a substance only repeals the laws that have made it illegal and takes away the penalties associated with the offense. People caught with marijuana in states that have decriminalized it may avoid consequences or receive penalties similar to those they would get for a minor traffic violation.

At this time, the city of Orlando has decriminalized the possession of 20 or fewer grams of marijuana. What this means is that a person caught possessing a negligible amount of weed can receive a citation instead of being arrested. This works much like a traffic ticket in the city, but it's up to the officer to decide whether or not to issue a citation or make an arrest.

Full legalization gets the government involved in regulating the substance that was formerly illegal. Like alcohol, the state would strictly control the marijuana industry. Only certain places and people would be permitted to sell it, buy it, and use it. Driving under the influence of pot would remain illegal.

If you have been arrested in Orlando or the Greater Central Florida area for possessing marijuana, you are urged to speak with an attorney to learn about your rights and legal options at this time. The Umansky Law Firm employs a dedicated team of attorneys who handle marijuana offenses throughout the state. Call 407-228-3838 or contact us online to receive a free and confidential consultation. Our online chat is also available 24/7 for your convenience. 

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