With Florida in its second year of legal medical marijuana, and with an epochal election cycle underway, the next phase of political activity has begun in earnest. While there has been no official move toward legalization in the legislature, one intrepid citizen is taking the law into his own hands-literally. Bradenton's Colby Wise, 48, has launched a petition drive to get legalization on the 2020 ballot. Its odds aren't great, but its mere existence is something of a game-changer.
"Honestly, I feel it's cruel and inhumane to require people to obtain a card and pay the state for permission to legally use a life-saving plant that is proven to be much safer than aspirin," he wrote on March 5, after returning from a meeting of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. Enter Public Proposal 700000 which, if made law, would give all citizens aged 21 and older the "right to possession, use and cultivation of cannabis," defined as "ALL parts of any plant of the genus cannabis, whether growing or not, and the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the plant or its seeds or resin." This would scrap the existing system of medical cards, licensed doctors, etc., while business would remain essentially the same for dispensaries with an expanded product line and customer base.
"Signatures are required for the paper Ballot Initiative," Wise said, "but the Florida Constitution Revision Commission doesn't need signed petitions to place any public or commissioner proposed Amendment on the ballot. ... The FL CRC is comprised of 37 commissioners who will require an affirmative vote by 22 commissioners to place an amendment on the ballot." It seems likely, however, that the commission will bow to political pressure and table the matter. There is an outside chance of Democrats taking control of the Florida legislature in 2018, then voting this onto the 2020 ballot in the next couple of years, but that's effectively a non-starter.
Wise and his volunteers have to do it the old-fashioned way. "To date, a handful of volunteers for Floridians For Freedom's grassroots initiative [has] validated over 22,000 signatures. Unfortunately, Florida requires 766,200 valid signatures derived from at least 14 Congressional Districts and all signatures must be collected within a 24-month window. So we've got a way to go to qualify the FFF Ballot Initiative for our 2020 ballot."
It may seem odd that a few dozen unelected political appointees can block this from the ballot, but that's what they're there for. One can hope that growing profits from the medical marijuana industry allows advocates to buy compliance, in the classic Southern tradition. Ironically, that might be ideal for politicians, who could pass the buck to the voters and avoid dealing with it themselves. "I'd say they generally wish they never had to hear the words cannabis or marijuana again," said Wise. "It seems to be a touchy subject for them."