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Saturday, 14 September 2019 06:55

Marijuana Legalization Campaign Nets $1 Million Featured

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A month after launching a petition drive to get a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana on the 2020 Florida ballot, the prospective measure’s sponsors have already raised more than $1 million in contributions.

Make It Legal Florida (MILF), which registered its "Adult Use Of Marijuana" initiative with the state’s Division of Elections (DOE) on Aug. 1, reported on its September finance filing that it had raised $1.09 million in cash and received $104,500 in in-kind contributions.

The money comes from two donors, both heavy hitters in the nation’s burgeoning marijuana industry, with each kicking in $545,000 – Surterra Wellness and MadMen, Inc.

Atlanta-based Surterra, which operates 31 medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida – tied with Trulieve as the most among the state’s licensed medical marijuana operators – is a five-year-old company with similar “vertical operations” in Texas, Nevada and Massachusetts that generated $50 million in 2018 revenues.

MedMen, headquartered in Culver City, Calif., and founded in 2010, operates 92 retail sites in 12 states, including one in Florida. The publicly traded company reported $39.8 million in revenues last year.

MadMen Southeastern Director of Government Affairs Nick Hansen chairs the Tampa-based Make It Legal Florida (MILF) committee.

MILF’s ballot proposal would legalize recreational marijuana use among adults 21 and older and allow medical marijuana dispensaries to distribute the drug as long as it was contained in childproof packaging and not marketed to children.

The proposed amendment would apply to the possession, display and transport of marijuana in quantities up to 2.5 ounces and would also apply to marijuana accessories.

The committee has about five months to collect the 766,200 verified voter signatures necessary to qualify for the November 2020 ballot before the Feb. 1 deadline.

MILF’s initiative is the third active petition effort filed with the DOE seeking to legalize recreational marijuana.

Floridians For Freedom’s "Right Of Adults To Cannabis" petition drive has been underway since August 2015 with little recent activity. As of Tuesday, it had collected 24,279 petition signatures.

Sensible Florida’s "Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol to Establish Age, Licensing, and Other Restrictions" petition drive, launched in March 2016. Sensible Florida, sponsored by Regulate Florida, has gathered 88,813 signatures, enough to meet the threshold for a state Supreme Court review of its language. It has raised $177,883 and received $245,725 in in-kind contributions.

Regulate Florida’s proposal seeks to regulate recreational marijuana similarly to alcohol but does not create a retail stricture for cannabis corporations such as Surterra and MadMen.
According to Ballotpedia, the average cost per required signature (CPRS) in Florida in petition drives was $6 in 2018, but that was before lawmakers adopted a slate of new rules regulating petition-gathering that went into effect on July 7.

The new rules essentially extend the state’s voter registration system for absentee ballots to petition-gathering, requiring every citizen initiative organization sponsoring a signature-drive to have its own numbered, serialized petition provided by county election offices.

It requires petition-gathers to register with the state and have a permanent Florida address, effectively barring out-of-state entities from ballot campaigns. The bill prohibits signature gatherers from being paid on a per-petition basis.

MILF’s and Regulate Florida’s dueling petitions should find plenty of support for their proposals.

In a July 16-18 survey of 800 “likely 2020 voters” conducted by Ft. Lauderdale-based Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, 67 percent said they favored legalizing the use of marijuana for adults age 21 or over.

A June Quinnipiac University poll fixed support for marijuana legalization among likely Florida voters at 65 percent.

According to CQ/Fiscal Note, there are at least 20 prospective citizen-initiated measures in nine states related to marijuana vying to qualify for 2020 ballots.

In addition to Florida, 11 possible constitutional amendments in seven states — three in Arizona, two in South Dakota, New Jersey, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska — would ask voters to legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults.

Recreational marijuana use is legal in 11 states. Medical marijuana programs have been approved in 33.

The U.S. market for cannabis products, $10.4 billion in 2018, is projected to explode into a $344 billion global industry within a decade, according to New Frontier Data, an analytics firm that focuses on the cannabis industry.

John Haughey
The Center Square

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