Words by Shelton Hull
This column has chronicled the exhaustive process of getting adult-use cannabis on our state ballot since its very inception, almost six years ago. That time was defined entirely by futility, as multiple factors (mainly internal among industry leaders) conspired to deny us easy victories in 2018, 2020 and 2022. I personally maintained it was unlikely to happen anytime soon and said so in this space as recently as a few weeks ago. This seriously almost never happens, but I was actually totally wrong in this case, and I’m glad I was.
As of June 10, 909,219 of the required 891,523 signatures have already been collected by Regulate Florida, which is funded mainly by Trulieve, through its Smart & Safe committee, duly endowed to the tune of $38.5 million or $43.18 per vote. Being the biggest dispensary active in Florida, Trulieve is poised to benefit most chiefly from the dramatic market expansion that will result from legalization. Once it makes the ballot for the super election in November 2024, voters will approve Florida to become the 22nd state to fully legalize cannabis in January 2025.
There are, as always, ancillary effects. Just as the cannabis plant itself has been long proved salubrious against a near-infinite array of physical, mental and emotional ails, so too has the petition drive itself proven instantly helpful in healing the malady most presently pressing against the body politic: Gov. Ron DeSantis and his ass-clown adjutant, whose actual acolytes, amazingly, are somehow even worse. Their tentacles reach further than Cthulhu fanfic, but the tip of the spear that is this whole fugazi kulturkampf of theirs has been the asymmetrical war against reproductive choice for millions of Florida women, some of whom might be you.
At this point, it’s hard to tell if all that scorched earth is from their political tactics or just climate change. Relief may be coming in the form of Floridians Protecting Freedom (FPF), a Sarasota-based coalition of Floridians who are protecting freedom, namely by way of a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee abortion rights up to the point of fetal viability — 24 weeks, according to the petition. The current limit of 15 weeks was passed last year, while a regression to six weeks is being argued in the courts anon. That proposal drew the ire of many liberal critics (well, all of them), and even conservatives like Ann Coulter, the Vatican and Donald Trump, as well as inspiring the current action by FPF.
FPF have already collected over 100,000 signatures in the first month since launching their effort on May 8, putting them well ahead of the pace they must maintain to get at least 891,523 between now and February 1. If you’re curious (which of course you are) that’s 3,314 signatures per day. They were hoping to get that many in all of May, but the ferocity of support they drew obliterated even the most optimistic projections, allowing them to raise over $2 million for the effort in just the first 10 days. How, Sway?
With cadres curated from groups like Florida Rising, Women’s Voices of Southeast Florida, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (as well as all their regional affiliates) and the ACLU of Florida, FPF is kinda like a fourth-wave feminist version of “Voltron” — with much less swordplay and waaay more pink. Petitions can be signed online or at any of about 60 physicals FPF have set up around the state for collecting blank petitions and dropping off the signed ones. Progress Florida has taken the lead in training over 2,500 volunteers in petition collection, ably buffing, polishing and shining those boots on the ground.
They certainly do have a bunch of you-know-what to step through, in order to achieve their goals, but they seem to want the smoke. Speaking of which, the achievement of getting adult-use already ready to roll (literally) into 2024 offers them not only a path forward, logistically, but also a lot of quality human resources they can draw upon as they, hopefully, keep building on their current momentum. (Polling data tracks about parallel on both issues, too.) The target markets for both issues overlap on a nearly 1-to-1 basis, and the rougher edges of DeSantis’ agenda have started rubbing even his fellow Republicans the wrong way. So, odds are in the ladies’ favor, as far as this particular matter goes.
Links for both petitions can be found here: floridiansprotectingfreedom.com/petition