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USA: Florida activists plan self-farming initiative to run parallel to industry-backed legalization

Florida's largest medical marijuana company recently launched an effort to put a legalization measure on the state's ballot in 2024. And at the same time, activists are exploring plans for voters to decide what they hope will happen. is a complementary measure that allows adults to grow their own plants at home. The industry-backed legalization campaign presented its measure to the state earlier this month. But in what they say is an effort to avoid a legal challenge over single-issue voting rules, the initiative is relatively limited in scope, with no provisions to allow home cultivation or promote social equality, for example. This has angered some observers who see the move as largely self-serving as, at least initially, it would simply allow existing medical cannabis companies to start selling into the adult-use market. To fill that gap, Moriah Barnhart, an activist with the Women's Initiative for a Safe and Equitable Florida, told Marijuana Moment that she is in the process of forming a separate political action committee to get a house grow initiative on the ballot as well. “With an adult-use initiative launched with $5 million in support, it only makes sense to shelve home growing alongside it,” Barnhart said, referring to the Smart & Safe Florida campaign that received seed funding from major cannabis company Trulieve. . “I've been asking for six years if I had any support in this endeavor,” she said. "I always felt, at the State of Florida, that this was our best bet for a myriad of reasons." One of the main reasons for splitting the reforms into two measures is the fact that the Florida Supreme Court has posed a barrier to citizen-led reform efforts in the state, and therefore they want to avoid any initiative that could be undermined by a legal challenge. about language or single subject rules. "Based on our state's current political climate — and the rules and guidelines we're under — I've always felt it would be best to file two separate amendments side by side and run them in parallel where resources can be strategically leveraged," Barnhart said. . "Whether they are really related or not is neither here nor there." In this case, the homegrown PAC has yet to be formed and there are no major funding commitments at this time that Barnhart can reveal, but she says she is actively consulting with lawyers on possible language for the measure. In a "perfect world", she said the proposal would allow adults to grow a certain number of plants for personal use, with the option to grow more than the basic limit with a doctor's recommendation. Voting in Florida is an especially resource-intensive endeavor. Case in point: The legalization campaign is kicking off with several million dollars in funding from Trulieve, but that's just getting off the ground. Successfully placing a measure on the 2024 ballot will require collecting 891,589 valid signatures from registered voters. Even more resources would be needed to mount a successful campaign to champion its passage in the state's various media markets. Trulieve spokesman Steve Vancore told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview last week that the company is giving a "big thumbs up" to Barnhart's initiative in theory and they "liked the idea" of leaving voters decide on a home-grown option. However, Trulieve understands that lawyers are "struggling" to define the language, so he said it would be premature to comment on the extent to which the firm might be willing to financially support any campaign that comes along. “Yes, we will support you. When and to what extent remains unknown as she is still writing. You can't commit to something invisible," said Vancore. “But we like the idea and we want to support something like that too.” Barnhart, for her part, said she is "very hopeful" that cannabis industry stakeholders will "come to the table to support the local initiative", suggesting that the industry-backed paid petition effort could allow the cultivation campaign to continue. staff “leverage” their resources by having workers collect signatures for both measures at the same time. “They have the opportunity to prove their dedication to home growing, which they have publicly supported,” she said. "It costs absolutely nothing, if they're putting their initiative for signatures, to put ours side by side with it." While Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment to the medicinal use of medicinals in 2016, subsequent attempts to put broader legalization on the ballot were rejected by the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the language of measures proposed by Make It Legal Florida and Sensible Florida were misleading, invalidating them. The legalization measure that was filed for 2024 by Smart & Safe Florida is not only constrained by the lack of self-farming or fairness provisions favored by many advocates, but is also deferential to the legislature on key issues such as expanding licensing beyond existing dispensaries. in the state's medical marijuana program. Currently, there are about 450 medical marijuana stores owned by about two dozen operators – more than 100 of which are owned by Trulieve. Without legislative action on additional licensing, this consolidation could persist, which could raise equity concerns. Many advocates have pushed for reform legislation that gives specific licensing priority to people from communities that have been most impacted by the drug war. It's unclear whether Sensible Florida, one of the campaigns whose legalization initiative was overturned by the court in April 2021, will continue to push for a separate ballot measure for 2024, or join forces with the industry-backed committee. Trulieve has previously contributed $250,000 to the Sensible Floria effort. If any cannabis reform measure makes it onto the 2024 ballot, at least 60% of Florida voters would have to approve it for it to be enacted. Regarding timing for the homegrown campaign, Barnhart said she is prepared to file PAC paperwork to form what is expected to be called Wise & Free at any time, which she first spoke to Miami about. New Times, and that voting language could be coming soon too. "We are confident in saying that in the coming weeks we will have something to file", she told the Marijuana Moment portal. Recent polls show that a majority of Florida voters (59%) support the legalization of cannabis for adult use, so this is a small margin that shows advocates will have their work cut out for them if the measure qualifies. A separate poll released in February found that three-quarters of Florida voters support legalizing adult-use marijuana possession, including strong bipartisan majorities. The poll did not ask voters' views on creating a regulated cannabis sales system, but 76% said they strongly or partially support allowing adults to "legally possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use." Looking to 2024 instead of this year may leave advocates better positioned to gain the level of majority support needed, as demographics more likely to favor legalization tend to have higher rates during presidential election years rather than midterm elections. Florida is not the only US state where activists are turning their attention this presidential election year to drug reform at the ballot box. For example, Idaho advocates Tuesday filed initial paperwork for an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in 2024. In Wyoming, activists behind proposed decriminalization and medical marijuana reforms said in January they would focus their energies on 2024 after failing to collect enough signatures for this year's vote amid weather conditions, procedural delays and the ongoing pandemic. . In Ohio, an effort to put adult-use legalization on the state ballot failed this year, but the campaign secured a procedural legal victory that will allow them to begin a planned reform initiative in 2023. Meanwhile, several states are set to vote in November on marijuana and drug policy reform measures. North Dakota voters will have a chance to decide whether to legalize marijuana in the November ballot, the secretary of state's office confirmed. In neighboring South Dakota, a marijuana legalization initiative again qualified for the ballot. The Arkansas Supreme Court recently ordered the secretary of state's office to certify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot — but there's a chance the votes won't end up being counted, depending on the final outcome of a pending legal challenge. Maryland election officials finalized the language for a marijuana legalization referendum that lawmakers put to the November ballot and issued a formal summary of the reform proposal. Missouri's Secretary of State certified that activists turned in more than enough signatures to qualify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot. Colorado voters will have a chance to decide on a historic November ballot initiative to legalize psychedelics and create licensed psilocybin "healing centers" where people can use the substance for therapeutic purposes. Oklahoma's attorney general has revised the ballot title of a marijuana legalization initiative that activists hope will be certified to go to state voters, mostly making technical changes that the campaign finds satisfactory. Nebraska advocates recently submitted signatures for two initiatives to legalize the medical use of marijuana. The campaign faced several challenges along the way, including the loss of critical funding after the death of a major donor and a court battle over the state's geographic requirements for voting petitions. Michigan activists announced in June that they will no longer be pursuing a statewide psychedelic legalization initiative for this year's election and will instead focus on qualifying the measure to be introduced to voters in 2024. The campaign behind an effort to decriminalize drugs and expand treatment and recovery services in Washington state said in June it had halted its effort to qualify an initiative for the November ballot. In March, California activists announced that they had failed to collect enough signatures to qualify a measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for the state's November ballot, although they are not giving up on a future election cycle bid. Meanwhile, there are several local reforms that activists want voters to decide on in November — including local marijuana decriminalization ordinances in Ohio, West Virginia and Texas. Wisconsin voters in at least half a dozen cities and counties will be asked in the November poll whether they support legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis in a similar way to alcohol. These advisory questions will not be binding, however, and are intended to take voters' temperatures and send a message to lawmakers about where their constituents stand. Text Reference: Marijuana Moment

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