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Florida may amend its constitution to legalize cannabis

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Florida may amend its constitution to legalize cannabis

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Florida lawmakers are debating a resolution that would amend the state’s constitution to legalize cannabis. If the lawmakers vote to approve the resolution, Florida voters would get to make the final decision in 2020.

The initiative says the right to use and cultivate cannabis “may not be infringed,” and it would allow adults over the age of 21 to “possess, use and cultivate cannabis.”

“Without the legislative desire or political will to legalize the adult use of cannabis, the citizens of Florida have no other recourse than to amend the constitution,” Christopher Cano, executive director of NORML’s office in Central Florida, told Cannabis News Box. “This is done by popular vote after citizen-led initiatives either collect enough signatures or an amendment is added to the ballot by elected legislators.”

Though Cano supports this way of legalizing cannabis, he said he doesn’t think Florida legislators will pass the measure. He said many of the legislators are funded by pharmaceutical companies and private prison companies, which likely don’t want it to pass. He said a citizen initiative may have to happen.

There is a major racial justice element to this issue in Florida, Cano noted, as there is a large black population that has been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.

“Florida remains a part of the Deep South where racial disparities in arrest continue and when it comes to marijuana, we see the stark differences in enforcement,” Cano said. “African Americans are 6 times as likely as their White counterparts to be arrested for cannabis in Florida. Last year 44k Floridians were arrested for simple misdemeanor possession of cannabis flower.”

Cano said these pharmaceutical companies and private prison companies are probably aware that they can’t completely stop legalization, as there’s quite a bit of momentum behind it, but he said he thinks they’re trying to slow the process as much as possible.

“Private prisons like Correction Corporations of America and the GEO Group push hard on crime policies to keep their prisons full and bottom line fat,” Cano said. “These corporations alongside advocacy groups like Drug-Free Florida and Smart Justice Alliance are being funded by wealthy individuals who profit off the design of the current prison-industrial complex, yet they cry about the children and public safety whenever legalization is brought up. The propaganda of the wealthiest adversaries to legalization knows no bounds.”

They may succeed in defeating this initiative, but cannabis advocates like Cano are confident they’ll win in the end. It’s just a matter of time.

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Florida may amend its constitution to legalize cannabis