TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Florida crossed a major hurdle but still faces a likely challenge from the state’s attorney general.
Florida’s Department of State reported that the proposed ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot in 2024.
The constitutional amendment, proposed by Smart & Safe Florida, gathered 967,528 valid signatures — more than 70,000 above the requirement to reach the ballot. Smart & Safe through April had spent $38.4 million to get the new measure on the ballot — all paid for by medical marijuana giant Trulieve Inc.
While it still faces a Florida Supreme Court review and an expected legal challenge from state Attorney General Ashley Moody, amendment supporters heralded the breakthrough.
“We are thrilled the campaign has made this milestone and look forward to seeing this initiative on the ballot next November,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said Thursday in a statement.
Moody’s office did not immediately provide a comment in response to a request.
The proposal would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of marijuana for personal use. Medical marijuana treatment centers, which were legalized by a statewide referendum in 2016, would be allowed to sell marijuana for recreational use.
Moody, who opposed a proposed 2022 marijuana legalization ballot measure, in May forwarded the proposed 2024 amendment to the Florida Supreme Court for review.
Moody stated in her letter that she’d argue the proposal doesn’t comply with state law, which includes a requirement that it contain “clear and unambiguous language.” Briefs in the case are due July 12.
If it makes it on the ballot, the marijuana legalization proposal could boost voter turnout — particularly among young voters — and possibly influence the 2024 races in Florida. Former President Donald Trump carried Florida in 2016 and 2020 but the state backed Democrat Barack Obama in the two previous presidential elections.
Twenty-one states have legalized recreational marijuana use while 37 others have approved medical marijuana in some form. It remains illegal at the federal level.
Trulieve, which now has 186 retail dispensaries across 11 states, has pinned its growth hopes on Florida, its home state and the third-most-populous state in the nation. The company recently opened two dispensaries in Georgia, where the medical market is just getting off the ground.
“Our investment demonstrates our firm belief that Floridians are ready to experience the freedom to use cannabis for personal consumption; a freedom which is currently enjoyed by more than half of America’s adults,” Rivers said.
Smart & Safe announced in March it had collected more than 1 million petition signatures but they had not been certified by local election officials at that time. The Department of State on Thursday updated its website to show the most recent number of signatures that were validated.