Cannabis industry supportive of legalization effort, but worry about access to market

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Floridians will have the opportunity to legalize recreational marijuana when they head to the ballot box this November, the cannabis community has mixed feelings about the proposed constitutional amendment.


Amendment 3 would authorize adults 21 and up to possess up to the 3 ounces of marijuana and five grams of concentrate.

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“Is this perfect? No. Is this progress? Yes,” said Josephine Cannella-Krehl with the Florida Cannabis Action Network.

Cannella-Krehl said she’s happy to see the issue finally make the ballot, but added she’d rather have seen state lawmakers act on their own.

“Cannabis laws across the country are the most rapidly evolving laws. So, when we know that to be the case, putting it in the constitution will make it a little bit more challenging,” said Cannella-Krehl.

Others in the cannabis industry like Gabe Suarez, who owns Natual Life hemp stores throughout the state, are concerned about the market model laid out in the amendment.

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“The MMTCs currently standing, or license holders, will still be the only people selling the cannabis,” said Suarez.

Then there are others who are blanketly opposed to the legalization effort, like Florida House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast).

“It looks innocuous, but then you start asking yourself, well, can you smoke on a child’s playground, can you smoke in an elevator?” said Renner. “The marijuana amendment is overly broad to serve the self interest of those that are gonna grow it and make billions and billions of dollars off of it.”

The petition gathering effort was bankrolled to the tune of $40 million by the state’s largest Medical Marijuana Treatment Center, Trulieve.

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“This is not a Red or a Blue issue. It’s really a human rights issue as far as we’re concerned,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers.

Rivers noted while currently licensed MMTCs would automatically be able to start selling for recreational purposes six months after the amendment’s adoption, the legislature would be free to allow other entities to enter the market as well.

“There’s plenty of room. There’s room for a whole lot of different types players,” said Rivers.

She also argued lawmakers will be free to implement time, place and manner restrictions on recreational marijuana just as they regulate alcohol and tobacco.

“That certainly is not the intent, is to tie the legislature’s hands. In fact, it’s really to do the opposite and to allow for them to regulate as they see fit for the benefit of all Floridians,” said Rivers.

But Suarez said he’s skeptical Florida Republicans would be in any rush to expand the market, given their track record on medical marijuana, which is currently comprised of just 25 licensed entities.

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“Natural Life would love to expand more into cannabis then it is today, but it wouldn’t be the way Florida’s done it in the past. It would be a very surprisingly different approach,” said Suarez.

The amendment would need 60 percent voter approval to pass in November.

The amendment sponsors estimated legalization would likely boost state and local tax revenue by roughly $200 million a year.

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