A new initiative which would re-legalize marijuana use for adults in Florida is gaining interest. On August 29, 2015, Floridians for Freedom increased their Facebook fan page interest by 54 percent as Libertarians, Democrats, Republicans and independents began signing up to volunteer for the new organization. Yesterday, volunteers began going out to get petitions signed so the initiative will be able to go before voters on the November 2016 ballot. It’s a monumental task for any of the three constitutional amendment initiatives working to re-legalize cannabis (marijuana) in some form in Florida. According to the nation’s most authoritative survey, a majority of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana.
Chairperson of Floridians for Freedom, Jodi James, said last night:
“After nearly twenty years working on this issue, I’ve come to believe the only way to ensure people have access to the cannabis plant is to make its possession, use and cultivation, a right protected by the Constitution. Once it is legal, lawmakers, citizen groups, business owners and lobbyist can argue about regulation, fair taxes, and market shares. Having seen the evolving efforts to regulate cannabis in other states, I am more convinced than ever, cannabis regulation does not belong in our Constitution.”
Floridians for Freedom was created earlier this month and will have its official kickoff event at different locations across the state on September 15, 2015. On August 26, 2015, Florida’s Secretary of Elections approved Floridians for Freedom’s petition. James is also the executive director for the Florida Cannabis Action Network and operates out of Melbourne.
The Freedom for Florida petition limits use of cannabis to adults 21 years of age and over and would retain the rights of businesses to decide for themselves whether to allow or disallow their employees use of cannabis. It would allow adults to cultivate cannabis on their own property while also giving more freedom for patients who wish to utilize the plant for its health benefits.
Libertarian Party of Florida (LPF) Chairman, Adrian Wyllie commented yesterday on Facebook, stating:
“We should always be extremely wary of amending the Florida Constitution, and this issue is no exception. Ideally, this is a matter that should be handled legislatively. Unfortunately, because our legislators have ignored the will of the people on this issue and have failed to act, they have left us little choice. Without question, the Floridians for Freedom amendment is the most consistent with the LPF platform. It has appropriately broad, yet clear, language for a constitutional amendment. The only question is whether 60% of Floridians have moved far enough to the Libertarian position on cannabis for it to pass. I certainly hope so.”
Floridians for Freedom is one of three petitions now making the rounds statewide, and as mentioned before, it is a Herculean task to garner enough signatures for the measures to be printed on the November 2016 ballot. Each of the three initiatives will require 683,149 verified signed petitions; however, each organization’s goal is to reach one million signatures because many will be thrown out because the signers are not registered voters or for other reasons. The three organizations have until February 1, 2016, to submit enough signatures to be considered whether to be included on the ballot for Floridians to vote “yes” or “no”. Even then, over 60 percent of Floridians would need to vote for the measure for it to become part of the Florida Constitution.
The other two initiatives with a focus on legalizing cannabis (marijuana) are, one for medical purposes and another which would regulate cannabis similar to how Florida regulates the alcohol industry. Regulate Florida, put out by Sensible Florida, Inc., had its petition approved by the state elections office this past week. United for Care had their petition approved earlier this year and focuses on expanding medical marijuana usage in Florida.
Bill Wohlsifer, Esq. who wrote the Regulate Florida initiative with Michael Minardi, Esq., said on Friday, “Despite our state’s CBD law’s (FS 381.986) January 1, 2015 deadline, DOH (Florida Department of Health) has yet to issue a single nursery license. We purposefully wrote Sensible Florida’s petition in such a comprehensive manner to sufficiently avoid the delay and confusion that Florida’s CBD patients and their families are currently experiencing. Our petition contains no revenue limiting text. Thus, it neither creates nor abrogates licensing fees or any form of taxation on cannabis production and consumption. Under the amendment, if the state breaches its duty to timely create regulations or process license applications, the counties and municipalities can begin issuing licenses to be effective January 2018.”
Libertarians have been debating the issue recently on social media as to which measure to support and should the Libertarian Party of Florida officially endorse one or all of the initiatives. South Florida Libertarian activist Ronald Rollins said, “I don’t mind if you treat cannabis like alcohol. that’s been my position for several decades now. tax it similarly. But i would like to see it opened up so that ‘anyone’ can grow it for themselves or for local markets; and, I guess, the state would take their ‘cut’/tax at the transactions. I would imagine, just like for any other sort of produce or product, there’d be some sort of government seal of approval’ that it meets a standard of quality.”
Ken Willey, who is a Libertarian Party candidate for Florida House District 18 in Clay County, Florida opined on the Regulate Florida measure:
“1. This amendment sets up a framework for entirely too much regulation. With excessive regulations come special interests, cronyism, and regulatory capture.
2. If this is to be a stepping stone for further deregulation then this amendment will have to be repealed. Once cronyism is entrenched it will be practically impossible to repeal this amendment.
3. If this amendment is the end-goal of a legalization movement then I must oppose it on principle. As a Libertarian, I can’t advocate for establishing restrictive regulations such as outlined in this amendment.”
Adrian Wyllie added, “I believe that the LPF (Libertarian Party of Florida) should promote all three initiatives, without specifically endorsing or financially committing to any at this point. Once we know which amendment(s) will be on the ballot, if any, we should then decide which we will officially endorse. In the meantime, we should also continue all efforts in the state legislature to completely legalize cannabis. This is a battle that must continue on many fronts, including the battle for public opinion. We must continue to work closely with all of our allies.”
The cannabis industry in Florida would rapidly turn into a multi-billion industry producing millions of tax revenue while reducing the taxpayer expense Florida spends on arresting and incarcerating individuals. These individuals have done nothing but participate in an industry which relies on the Law of Supply and Demand. Re-legalizing this multi-billion dollar underground industry would bring it out of the shadows and eliminate its mystique. Other states that have done the same have seen large benefits in doing so.