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Weed the people: recreational marijuana on the ballot in November

marijuana plant
News Service of Florida

The Florida Supreme Court ruled the proposed constitutional amendment could stay on the ballot, despite pushback from attorney general Ashley Moody who argued the amendment would confuse voters.

Getting Amendment 3 on the ballot was expensive. More than $40 million to back the amendment came from Trulieve, the medical marijuana company with a big footprint in Florida.

On this episode of Florida Matters, we discuss how the proposed amendment could change life in the Sunshine State.

Joining the conversation: Tampa Bay Times/Tallahassee correspondent Romy Ellenbogen, who covers state government, with a focus on criminal justice and health. And Richard Blau, an attorney with GrayRobinson. He's chair of the regulated products division, where he oversees the firm’s legal guidance, compliance, and support services for the alcohol beverage, cannabis, food, and tobacco products industries.

We also hear from a supporter and an opponent of the proposed amendment.

Smart and Safe Florida, the group supporting amendment 3, said there are good reasons to allow recreational marijuana in Florida. They point to the potential tax revenue, they say it will ease pressure on the criminal justice system and it will be better regulated, and safer, than what recreational users may be getting illegally.

Trulieve spokesperson Steven Vancore told Florida Matters that if the amendment passes, lawmakers should be careful not to overtax recreational marijuana.

"In states that have overtaxed that what you saw was an immediate backlash and people went to the illegal or gray market as it were. And so when you have a regulated market, you don't want to go to a point where you're so overregulated that people just go buy it on the street corner," said Vancore.

"Here's the really important part of this. When you have an adult use market, right, cannabis market, like we're hoping to bring to Florida, it's regulated. It's third-party independent lab tested, it's safer,” Vancore said.

Listen to more from Steven Vancore here:

Steven Vancore on Amendment 3

Opponents of the proposed constitutional amendment say recreational marijuana will have a negative impact on public health and even quality of life. They say more young people will start using it, and they warn about public health risks like impaired driving and Cannabis Use Disorder.

"You're not going to invest as a business, $40 million into something if you don't think you're gonna get a return on that investment," said Will Jones, the director of community outreach and engagement at Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM.

"At the end of the day, there's a huge financial incentive for these marijuana businesses, companies, the industry—- to downplay the risks of this. And to say that we're going to do it responsibly, to say that we're going to regulate it to say it's going to be something good," said Jones.

Listen to more from Will Jones here:

Will Jones on Amendment 3

As the executive producer of WUSF's Florida Matters, I aim to create a show and podcast that makes all Floridians feel seen and heard. That's also my assignment as a producer for The Florida Roundup. In any role, my goal is always to amplify the voices often overlooked.
I am the host of WUSF’s weekly public affairs show Florida Matters, where I get to indulge my curiosity in people and explore the endlessly fascinating stories that connect this community.