A new study from New Frontier Data shows legalized recreational marijuana would septuple Florida’s current cannabis jobs.
Medical marijuana is legal in Florida, but recreational marijuana isn’t. But if marijuana were fully legalized at the federal level, the study predicts that cannabis jobs could number 128,587 by 2025 – a 666% increase from the current 16,792.
Aside from the devilishly impressive job numbers, the study also predicts Florida will capture a 12% share of the nation’s $29.7 billion legal market by 2025.
The math seems to add up. Florida is the third most populous state in the country. And its medical cannabis market is thriving. The state currently has 379,989 registered medical cannabis patients. That’s up from 179,027 last October. And it has nearly 200 dispensaries across the state.
So how close is Florida to legalizing recreational weed? Let’s look at some ballot initiatives and current laws.
Cannabis Ballot Initiatives
There are three active initiatives pushing for recreational marijuana legalization in Florida: Make It Legal Florida, Floridians for Freedom and Regulate Florida, whose committee to raise funds is registered as Sensible Florida. Sensible Florida is the lead sponsor of the Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which is currently gathering signatures to get onto the November 2020 ballot. As of October 11, the initiative had gathered 91,707 signatures. To qualify for the ballot, proponents must get 766,200 signatures and have them verified by officials by February 1, 2020.
Here’s a description of the initiative from Ballotpedia:
The amendment was designed to legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by residents at least 21 years old. Residents would also be allowed to cultivate up to six plants per household, but only three or fewer plants could be mature or flowering. The plants would need to be grown in “an enclosed, locked space,” and users would not be permitted to sell the plants they grow.
Under the amendment, marijuana would be treated like alcohol – it would be prohibited for residents under 21 years of age, consumers would need to show proof of age before purchasing marijuana from retail facilities, and it would be illegal for anyone to drive while impaired or under the influence of marijuana. The amendment also outlines regulations for marijuana cultivation, retail marijuana sales, and manufacturing marijuana products.
Make It Legal Florida is sponsoring the Florida Marijuana Legalization and Medical Marijuana Treatment Center Sales Initiative, which would add a section to the Florida Constitution that would legalize the personal possession, use and purchase of 2.5 ounces of marijuana and also allow medical marijuana treatment centers to sell marijuana for personal use to adults 21 years or older.
Make It Legal claims to have collected more than 100,000 signatures so far and raised $535,000 last month. But the campaign has been a point of contention for some Floridians, as the measure would make it so that people would be able to purchase marijuana only from dispensaries owned by a handful of state-approved corporate conglomerates.
“It will make these companies billions, and it will crush the industry for the next 10 years,” said Brett Puffenbarger, a hemp and cannabis consultant and partner at Native Hemp Solutions. “I’d rather crush the industry for two years and come back with a real petition in 2022.”
Since 2015, several cities and counties across Florida have been decriminalizing marijuana. Miami Beach, Key West and West Palm Beach have passed ordinances that give police the option to cite, rather than arrest, someone caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana.
Orlando gives police the option to issue $100 tickets for a first-time offense of possessing up to 20 grams. And Tampa allows police to issue fines ranging from $75 to $450 for possession of 20 grams or less.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis supports medical marijuana and signed a smokable medical marijuana bill into law in March. But he isn’t a fan of recreational marijuana. When asked about legalization, DeSantis said, “Not while I’m governor.”
But given the current trend of decriminalization, a robust medical marijuana market and support for legalization campaigns, it seems legalization is only a matter of time for Florida. The marijuana market – and the money and jobs it could bring to the state – is just too good to pass up.