florida marijuana trayvon martin zimmerman
Ending Marijuana Prohibition

When Will Florida Legalize Recreational Marijuana?

florida marijuana trayvon martin zimmermanOn Election Day 2014, Florida voters will get the chance to legalize medical marijuana. Because the initiative is a constitutional amendment, the initiative will need at least 60% of voters to vote ‘yes.’ The battle in Florida has been fierce, with both sides raising millions of dollars. Polls show that the initiative is winning, but polls don’t always translate to reality on Election Day. However, I’m confident that victory will be achieved in Florida in November.

With marijuana reform on people’s minds in Florida, a question that I get quite a bit these days is ‘when will Florida legalize recreational marijuana?’ Unlike states like Texas and New York, Florida has an initiative process which boosts the odds of full legalization. States that have to rely solely on their legislatures to approve legalization face a much tougher fight. But just because Florida has an initiative process doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk that legalization will happen soon.

Florida’s initiative process, and what it takes to win on Election Day, is one of the toughest in the nation. In order to qualify an initiative for the upcoming election, organizers have to get enough valid signatures to equal at least 8% of the last Presidential vote in Florida. For the 2014 Election, this worked out to 683,149 signatures. And considering that not every signature is valid, a campaign would have to gather significantly more than that to ensure there are enough to survive the verification process. That’s a ton of signatures. Compare that to my home state of Oregon, which requires less than 90,000.

To make matters even tougher in Florida, there are district requirements for where signatures have to be gathered from. For the 2014 election, at least 68,314 valid signatures had to have been gathered from at least 7 different Congressional districts. Compare that to my home state of Oregon, where signatures can be gathered from anywhere in the state. It makes it much tougher to meet initiative qualification requirements. It’s hard to find seven different parts of any state that are sympathetic to a political cause, marijuana or otherwise.

But there is good news for Florida. Signature requirements are tough in the state, but the 2014 medical marijuana effort proves that it can be done for marijuana reform. Also, the 2014 medical marijuana campaign has shown that there is significant financial support for a marijuana reform campaign. Last I heard the campaign had raised over five million dollars, which is a very large amount for a campaign.

The last poll I saw from Florida showed 55% support for legalization. That’s enough for almost any other state to get funders on board, however, because Florida requires a 60% ‘yes’ vote, it could signal that Florida may have to wait until polling shows even higher support. Due to the signature gathering requirements, polling, and the 60% ‘yes’ vote requirement, I think Florida may not be a sure shot for 2016. 2018 is a mid-term election year, which is hard to get funders and organizations on board with. I think Florida’s best bet for legalization is 2020, but I’m hopeful that federal reform will have been acheived by then, which would make a Florida legalization effort unnecessary. I would LOVE to be wrong about 2016, but I think Florida will have to wait awhile before recreational legalization becomes a reality there.

  • Ian H.

    There is growing support each day and more knowledge is being spread in the bigger cities (Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando, etc.). After this election is won, 2016 will be the year that recreational becomes legal in Florida, because of influence from other states legalizing support will increase. Never underestimate the financial influence from other states from their tax revenue.

  • Doc Deadhead

    We need to call it “General Adult Use” instead of recreational use.

    They didn’t call it recreational beer during the end of alcohol prohibition, it was for “Adult Use”.

    Let’s not let the Government “label” this with a negative persona.

    Part of this movement is forcing the haters to do it our way.

    General Adult Use explains it a lot better.

    Spread the word, re-phrase this every time it gets mentioned in your circles!

    • Uncle Arthur

      Recreational is not a dirty word. “Re” means regenerate and “create” means to bring forth, beget, etc. Recreational means to refresh. Recreation is a universal human right. No need to be ashamed or uncomfortable with the word “recreational”. We should exercise our basic human rights and not apologize for them.

      • Eric

        If someone is using cannabis medically, I would not consider that to be recreational.

        Recreational definition: Relating to or denoting activity done for enjoyment when one is not working.

        Some people may not do it for enjoyment, but they do it because they have to because they’re in pain for example.

  • Ron

    I read elsewhere last week (?) that a poll showed 88 percent for medical marijuana in Florida. Hopefully that overwhelming support will flow down to recreational use.

    • wowFAD

      It will. The line of reasoning works like so:

      First, they find out about (some of) the medical benefits. Next, they learn how no one has *ever* actually died from cannabis. Afterwards, they continue their research into the medicinal qualities of the plant — which could drag on for months. During the course of that research, a single question creeps into their minds and slowly gets louder and louder: “Why is this harmless, wonderful plant — the cure for cancer — illegal AT ALL???”

      I’ve always maintained that the movement to reform our cannabis laws is bound for success for two simple reasons: we have both science & morality on our side, and it is the Information Age — it’s getting harder to lie to people who would like to know fact from fiction.

      This is why I don’t argue the point with people who claim medical cannabis either “opens the door” to legalization or is just a “short step” to it. For people who think for themselves, it certainly is — realizing the absurdity of prohibition is the logical, rational conclusion at which most people arrive, naturally. There is no good reason for cannabis prohibition. None. Most folks are capable of realizing that, but they have to arrive at that conclusion on their own.

      • Ron

        I hope you’re right, but you have more faith in human nature than I do.

        • wowFAD

          I have faith that we’re very curious, almost to a fault. The internet would have been a passing fad, if people overwhelmingly would rather *not* see something than see it. Very few people would agree that not knowing is better than knowing (unless they’re being ironic, sarcastic, nihilistic, or any other general Hipster qualities).

          There was once a sociology experiment in which many different people were asked to guess how many jelly beans were in a jar. The result was that the *average* of all the different guesses was closer to the actual number of jelly beans than all of the guesses, except one (who got it exactly right). I’ve always thought of that experiment as an allegory for the internet. Individually, the people on the internet have imperfect knowledge of things that are objectively true. Collectively, when we share our imperfect knowledge and do the compare-and-contrast exercise, we’re trying to make our personal epistemology — our individual, imperfect knowledge — as close to what’s objectively true as we can make it. Part of that is the objectively true, empirically verifiable knowledge that cannabis is not dangerous and should not be illegal.

          In many ways, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have done more for cannabis law reform than NORML, simply by creating information technology empires.

          Yes, there are people who don’t agree with this rosey “Information Age” sentimentality, and not just hipsters trying to look cool, but I haven’t heard any compelling arguments to the contrary. There’s good reason to believe that what we think (that cannabis prohibition is an abject failure and was a terrible idea in the first place) is the median, not an outlier. I’m pretty sure our guess to this particular jar of jellybeans is very close.

  • wowFAD

    2014 will be a true test. In Florida, especially.

    Typically, mid-term elections in Florida are decided by the AARP voter block. Rick Scott and Pam Bondi fought tooth and nail to keep cannabis off the 2014 ballot because they’re aware of how wildly popular medical cannabis has become with that particular constituency, thanks in large part to Robert Platshorn and the Silver Tour. Robert Platshorn is one of Florida’s hardest-working advocates, whose work in Florida justifies mentioning him along with people like Cathy Jordan and John Morgan, who have also been instrumental to reforming Florida’s cannabis laws.

    If cannabis wins big in Florida in a midterm election, you can be certain cannabis will be center stage in 2016 at all levels, in most states. Who *doesn’t* have retired family in Florida, these days? It’s my personal belief that Florida will serve as a beachhead for cannabis law reform in the Southeast.

    Word spreading across the country that senior citizens in Florida support medical cannabis, to be frank, is one of the many different worst-case scenarios for prohibitionists. It’s almost as bad for them as it was when the population learned cannabis safely and effectively treats seizure disorders in small children who were failed and left to die by “targeted” pharmaceutical medicines. Word has successfully spread in Florida that cannabis can replace many of those harmful, addictive synthetic medicines — and who uses more pharmaceuticals than retirees?

    What prohibitionists fear most is word spreading. Prohibitionists don’t want people talking about it because they understand the road between a prohibition mindset and wanting to reform our cannabis laws is a one-way street: nobody backtracks from supporting cannabis to supporting prohibition. Nobody can rationally justify maintaining a prohibition against the cure for cancer. If people don’t talk about it, they don’t think about it, and the prohibition status-quo is maintained.

    Why do you think their approach was “Just say no” for so many years? They don’t want anyone thinking for themselves, even for a moment. It should be amended as “Don’t think for yourself, just say no.” 19 million Floridians taking a few minutes to consider the logic behind cannabis prohibition is the last thing prohibitionists want.

  • moses

    Here we go, we are not waiting. Polling show we are 80% for. Keep the faith,

    • A

      Yeah, lets fight this propaganda that the government has been feeding us!

  • M.J.

    I’ll tell you what, though……If you can get Florida to make Marijuana legal for recreational use, it will pass quickly for the rest of the states. being that Florida is ONE of the toughest states.

  • niceguyatl

    Over a full truck load of pot is traded each day in Florida. I can walk into any public area in any city and get pot within minutes just by asking for it. It almost feels like it’s already legal there. Why would it take till 2020?? The Seminole Indians made an overnight deal with Florida to change gambling laws. Whats the big deal with weed?

  • stationone123

    I’m still going to grow it and smoke it regardless of the 2014 vote so f..k Florida. I say let’s vote for Privatizing law enforcement.

  • Abbie

    What I would DO to smoke/take weed for my pain and get off this dilotted severely addictive pain killer – – – Oh, what I would do! I mean, they cracked down so badly on oxycontin because addicts were buying it from pillmills here in Florida, that a LEGITIMATE person with chronic nerve pain can’t purchase it even in a pharmacy with a legit script! The gov’t better do something to replace the need for pain meds for people that legitimately need it here in Florida medically.

    Wish I could grow and smoke it myself, but for the line of work I’m in, I’m on contract and with each contract, I have to take a drug test.

  • Jo

    Unlike alcohol (a legal drug) marijuana, to my knowledge has never killed anyone.
    ALCOHOL IS A KNOWN KILLER OF NOT JUST THE CONSUMER BUT ENTIRE FAMILIES AND COUNTLESS OTHER innocent individuals!
    How can our Government deny us health care that has proven result, causes no know adverse effects like most of the LEGAL DRUGS. Prescriptions have become unaffordable to the average working individual. The trillions of our dollars employing the numerous agencies to arrest people, confiscate their possessions, purchase equipment ie helicopters, boats, aircraft, tracking equipment is the crime.
    Again I ask “how can we be denied the healthcare so many of us NEED ? Why is our money being used to deny us healthcare ?
    I get so upset to see the misinformation and just plain lies by individuals who are either CLEARY misinformed, just plain uneducated or have a financial gain in keeping marijuana illegal. I would venture to say that the majority of those opposed to legalization are those that can afford to pay for their messages to be broadcast or put in print THOSE THAT HAVE FINANCIAL GAINS From the taxpayers.

  • karlea

    Marijuana has NEVER killed a person, alcohol has. The government made it illegal because people can grow it in their backyard & the government can’t make money off of it!

  • ggmman

    Alclahol is addictive and that’s why there is alcoholics. Weed however has never killed anyone by itself. I hope one day cigarets and alclahol is illigal, and weed is legal.

  • Numan2ww

    After yesterdays defeat of amendment 2 in Florida for medical weed it has been made obvious that the ONLY way we’ll ever be able to get recreational weed legal in Florida is going to be catering to the 2 main groups that oppose weed in Florida that is the elderly and law enforcement. If a proposal is made to legalize or decriminalize weed in Florida the way to make it pass would be if say 5% of the tax money collected goes to reducing medical costs for the elderly or benefits them in some way and if say 5% gets added to the pension fund for law enforcement so they can benefit from the taxation.

  • Adam Horton

    How about this, if Florida does not legalize marijuana, then almost the entire state will flock to states that have legal marijuana. Not just because they are smokers, but even the ones who do not smoke will leave, because Colorado is becoming superior and Florida is becoming more and more poor,because of Colorado and other northern states’ huge marijuana profits. They make so much cash, they can not even put their money in a bank up there! Florida is turning into a deserted police state broke land. Homes are empty everywhere. i hope Florida will wake up and legalize marijuana soon, Florida is turning into a nightmare.

  • Adam Horton

    Either the criminal justice sub committee is completely ignorant or they are rejecting these recreational marijuana bills so they can force marijuana users out of the state of Florida to legal marijuana states. Whatever the reason, it is foolish for Florida to turn down such a good bill to greatly help the state of Florida and rejecting such a bill will cause Florida’s economy to severely weaken.