Push to legalize recreational marijuana

Legal adult use of marijuana could be on the way to Florida, with no prescription necessary.

This week, Rep. Carlos Guillermo-Smith, D-Orlando, co-sponsored legislation (HB1117) in the Florida House to recreationalize marijuana in the state along with Rep. Michael Grieco, D-Miami Beach.

Under the bill, adults over 21 years of age could possess, use, and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and can grow up to 6 plants. The bill also outlines taxation on the plant and states that public use will still be illegal.

"It's just kind of a no-brainer, you know?" said Guillermo-Smith. "There's no reason why the state cannot regulate cannabis in a similar way they regulate alcohol use."

That bill comes just days after another Central Florida lawmaker proposed action in the Florida Senate.
Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, introduced Senate Joint Resolution 1298 to create a constitutional amendment allowing adult use of cannabis in the state.

At least two citizen groups have started petitions to put recreational pot on the 2020 ballot.  Bracy said his bill would simply skip the petition step and get it in front of voters. 

"We're moving toward legalization,” said Bracy. "The underground market is still flourishing, and we're either just gonna hide our faces in the sand or we decide that it's time to legalize marijuana."

The moves come as the marijuana business in Florida grows rapidly.   

Patrick O’Brien, at the Orlando Learn Sativa University, said his classroom’s taking on more and more students who are eager to learn to grow and provide options for the state’s legal medical marijuana scene.  O’Brien said legalizing the recreational element would open up even more doors and even more opportunities to destigmatize the once taboo plant.

"I believe in making it recreational in those regards but I also believe the lab testing has to be put in place,” he said.

O’Brien also said that on-going stigma could be a challenge in the efforts to legalize.

Just last month, as Governor Ron DeSantis pushed state lawmakers to start allowing smokable forms or marijuana for medicinal use, DeSantis told reporters he’s still against recreational use.

According to an October 2018 Pew Research poll, 62% of Americans now favor legalization though.
Currently 10 states and Washington D.C. allow recreational use of marijuana. Tax revenue has been a large driving factor for a lot of those states, Colorado reporting more than $900 million in taxes and fees collected since they legalized pot in 2014.

Smith and Bracy both think whether it’s this year, or in the near future, Florida will join the list.

"Regulate it, tax it, and stop criminalizing people for using cannabis,” said Smith.