Whither Weed

The New Year is nowupon us, and if you’re like me, you’ll agree it’s not a moment too soon. 2019 will be the third year of medical marijuana in the state of Florida and our first under incoming governor Ron DeSantis, who will be sworn in later this month. Hardcore activists and casual cannabisseurs alike have a lot on their plate this year, and those of you who are worn out from last year’s political scrum will have about six months to decompress before the whole cycle begins anew.

We all have our slate of New Year’s resolutions, and I’m sure many of you have already broken yours by now. The marijuana scene is no different, with activists keen to follow up on another highly successful legislative year and retailers hoping to expand their commercial footprint. So, to that end, here are a few suggestions for resolutions worth pursuing on behalf of those interests.

Sign ’em up: The No. 1 question readers ask (besides “Hey, you wanna hit this?”) concerns the possibility of full legalization in Florida. Some folks, especially transplants from more open-minded states, assume it’s already a done deal, which has led to a few awkward moments in public places. Having a Republican governor and legislature means the only path to legalization is through the ballot box–specifically, an Amendment 2-style plebiscite in November 2020.

Advocates need to begin the petition process now, because opponents know two things: 1) Reefer-related referenda have passed every time they were sent to the voters, and 2) These initiatives have a way of boosting progressive turnout, and that’s already a given in the brutal 2020 super-election cycle (which, by the way, has really already begun). So expect all manner of obfuscation and every possible challenge to those signatures. This is another area where Amendment 4 will definitely help.

Stroke the jokes: Cannabis advocates went all-in for Team Gillum last year, and they were bitterly disappointed to see him “lose” that election. But my sources tell me there’s room for hope, because they expect DeSantis to temper the sloppy, right-wing posturing that characterized his campaign and try to lead from a more moderate position. After all, his margin of “victory” was slim, and he’ll need some leverage to preempt the inevitable challenge in 2022. This would presumably mean greater freedom for incoming Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, whose office oversees all things pot. As those interests enhance their lobbying presence in Tallahassee, DeSantis may prove far more malleable than anyone would’ve ever expected.

The same goes for Washington, where an isolated president now finds himself under siege from congressional Democrats who have scuttled any further legislative adventures for the rest of his term. They hope to impose lame-duck status on him with the goal of weakening him even further before giving him the ooh-la-la in 2020. Under these conditions, he might also be swayed in a useful direction. Having already legalized hemp via last month’s farm bill, Trump could be convinced (in theory) that a push for full legalization might be just the thing to keep progressive voters from turning out. He’s always signaled a willingness to consider it; the only question now is how to get that through the Republican majority in the Senate.


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About Shelton Hull

Shelton Hull has been writing for Folio Weekly since 1997, but his resume goes back even further. He has written for almost every newspaper, magazine and zine in Northeast Florida, as well as publications like Orlando Weekly, Narrow GNV, Creative Loafing Tampa, Charleston City Paper, Ink19 and The Atlantic. He currently writes the "Folio Weed" column, which he created in 2018; he remains one of the widest-read and most influential cannabis writers in the world today. He also compiles material for "Weird Wild Stuff" column, and he previously wrote the legendary "Money Jungle" column for Folio Weekly from 1999 to 2009. He is a regular contributor to "First Coast Connect" on WJCT, as well as the Jacksonville Music Experience. He is a co-host of "The Contrast Project" and the "Bold City Civics" podcast. He is also a co-founder of the record label Bold City Music Productions. He can be reached at [email protected].