Miami Beach's reefer revolution

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

It's a scorching late afternoon in mid-July. Strolling on the sidewalk along the west side of Flamingo Park in South Beach, Eric Stevens approaches a man holding his toddler son by the hand. The blond-haired, blue-eyed University of Miami business school graduate asks the father if he is a registered voter in Miami Beach. The man, whose name is Charlie, replies in the affirmative. "I was wondering if you would sign a petition that would allow Miami Beach Police officers to issue a citation to anyone caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana instead of putting them in jail," Stevens says. The dad doesn't hesitate: "Where do I sign?"

Stevens then walks over to a thin, young man named Adrian, who's wearing a tank top and gym shorts and leaning against a pole holding a basketball hoop. "A $100 fine instead of jail?" Adrian remarks. "That's cool, man." Over the course of three hours, Stevens collects two dozen signatures from registered Miami Beach voters for a petition that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The 23-year-old Foxboro, Massachusetts native forms half of the brain trust behind Sensible Florida, a group that earlier this year initiated a petition drive in Jacksonville that stalled before coming to Miami's French Riviera to make a go of it. His counterpart is Ford Bannister, a 27-year-old who helped push medical marijuana referendums in Denver, where it is now legal. As of this past September 6, Sensible Florida has collected 2,402 signatures from registered voters in Miami Beach. Stevens and Bannister need to get another 1,800 John Hancocks in order to hold a special election that would let Beach residents make their city the first in Florida to legalize small amounts of reefer.


Legalize marijuana

"Billions of dollars have been spent on the drug war to put countless people in jail and ruin their lives," Stevens reasons as a brunette unloading her Mini Cooper signs the petition. "But it just seems impossible to me that anyone can stop a plant from growing anywhere in the world."

Stevens's path to pro-marijuana activist began last summer when he was taking an entrepreneurial class during his junior year. "I was a naval sea cadet in high school and a straight-A student," he says. "I always thought marijuana was bad for you until I realized fellow classmates who were much smarter than me smoked pot and still excelled."

So for his class, he developed a business plan advocating for medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida, which won him a $2,500 endowment from the university's business school to further study his proposal. "Florida is an agricultural state," he says. "And marijuana is the number one cash crop in the country, so it seemed pretty logical to me."

Stevens used the money to cover travel expenses to California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana, where he visited dispensaries and Oaksterdam University in Oakland. There he took advanced classes on the business of government-regulated pot selling. He also familiarized himself with the federal government's hypocrisy on marijuana. "I found out that the government has a patent on THC [the primary intoxicant in pot] to make marinol for medicinal purposes," he says. "Yet the same government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no medicinal value."

After his trip out West, Stevens returned home to Foxboro, where he volunteered on the ballot initiative that last year made medical marijuana legal in Massachusetts. After graduating in May, he joined Bannister to bring the reefer revolution to the Sunshine State.

"I've always been entrepreneurial," Stevens notes. "I saw a huge demand but a low supply for a safe product with significant medical benefits. Many of the arguments for keeping marijuana illegal just don't have any substance."

Read on for some intriguing facts about pot.

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.