Maybe It's Not a Bad Thing Florida's Biggest Recreational Marijuana Petition Failed

The biggest proponents for home-grow laws are the medical marijuana patients who depend on high doses.
The biggest proponents for home-grow laws are the medical marijuana patients who depend on high doses. Photo by Add Weed / Unsplash
Despite its name, the corporate-backed Make It Legal Florida petition to legalize cannabis would not have made it legal for citizens to grow their own weed, a right already established in at least 27 states. Instead, it would have allowed dispensaries to continue monopolizing the marijuana industry.

So it's not exactly a setback that the Make It Legal Florida team announced this week it had failed to gather enough signatures to make it onto the 2020 ballot. With this initiative out of the way, Floridians can now concentrate on supporting a petition for 2022 that will truly free the weed.

Make It Legal Florida is one of three active petition drives that failed to get an amendment on the ballot this fall. It's funded by multistate cannabis companies Surterra and MedMen and would strengthen Florida's so-called cannabis cartel by ensuring the big corporations would be the only ones allowed to sell cannabis.

Now that the 2020 election is a no-go, the petition groups are concentrating on 2022 because the signatures are valid for two years. The other initiatives are Sensible Florida, a ten-page petition seeking to regulate cannabis like alcohol; and Floridians for Freedom, a one-page petition that states "all people in the State of Florida 21 years of age and older shall have the right under state laws to possession, use, and cultivation of cannabis."

The Sensible Florida petition — better known as Regulate Florida — is backed by Trulieve and other dispensaries, although they did not funnel millions of dollars into the campaign as Medmen and Surterra did for Make It Legal Florida. Floridians for Freedom, meanwhile, has gotten little press because it does not have the support of any dispensary or large funder. But it is widely supported by many activists who have been fighting for decades to legalize cannabis.

"I wasn't against any of them, but that was the one I wanted," says Joe Redner, a septuagenarian strip-club owner in Tampa who spent years fighting laws on nudity and more recently for the right to legally grow his own cannabis.

Redner's endorsement should be taken seriously: Floridians for Freedom makes the boldest effort in removing the criminal stigma from cannabis, while the other two are all about regulating marijuana, which would give police more power to destroy people's lives over weed. Nevertheless, the petition has only 17,156 signatures — far from the 766,200 necessary to make it onto the ballot.

A bill introduced Monday by state Sen. Jeff Brandes with language similar to that of the Make It Legal Florida campaign will likely not make any progress because the Florida Legislature is overrun with prohibitionists. The bill includes a provision the says the effects of home-grow will be studied — but what exactly needs to be studied?

In fact, the biggest proponents for home-grow laws are the medical marijuana patients who depend on high doses, which can be expensive and inconsistent to purchase in dispensaries given the constant shortages on flower.

Redner, who has cancer in his lungs, prostate, and kidneys, uses a concentrated form of cannabis called Rick Simpson Oil to treat his stage-four lung cancer, which requires large amounts of cannabis. He plans to step up his activism this year by getting himself arrested for growing his own cannabis and then demanding a jury trial.

"That's what I did when I was fighting against the nude laws," he says. "I went ahead and broke them, and they couldn't prosecute me. They couldn't get a conviction, so that ended it."
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Carlos Miller is a Miami multimedia journalist who runs Photography Is Not a Crime, an award-winning national news site about First Amendment issues and police abuse.
Contact: Carlos Miller