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Corporatization of Recreational Cannabis Looms in Florida 

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As three active petitions to legalize recreational cannabis maintain traction for the November 2020 election in the state of Florida, the leading petition has been receiving backlash from critics who are concerned about the corporatization of the recreational cannabis industry. 

Out of the three petitions to legalize recreational cannabis in the state of Florida, the leading petition, Make It Legal Florida, has received $1.09 million from national cannabis companies MedMen and Surterra Holdings. Each company contributed $545,000. Critics of Make It Legal Florida fear argue that the petition is too corporate and will ultimately create a monopoly out of Florida’s recreational cannabis industry. 

If passed, Make It Legal Florida will allow adults who are 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis. It would permit medical cannabis dispensaries to also conduct recreational sales. Currently, there are only a few corporate owners of medical cannabis dispensaries in the state. Make It Legal Florida is pursuing this legislation in the form of a ballot item that, if passed by at least a 60 percent vote, would enact a constitutional amendment. 

Brett Puffenbarger is a consultant and partner at Native Hemp Solutions. He criticized Make It Legal Florida’s petition in an interview with Miami New Times. “It will make these companies billions, and it will crush the industry for the next 10 years,” Puffenbarger said. “I’d rather crush the industry for two years and come back with a real petition in 2022.”

The Florida Supreme Court must review the ballot item before it can be considered for the ballot, per state law. This review will only happen after 76,632 signatures have been collected. From there, over 766,000 petitions must receive a signature to make it onto the ballot. At the time of this writing, no signatures have been submitted to the Florida Supreme Court by Make It Legal Florida. 

In contrast to the other two active petitions to legalize recreational cannabis in the state, Make It Legal Florida does not have a provision to allow home growing of cannabis. Make It Legal Florida Chair, who is also the Southeastern Director of Government Affairs at MedMen, Nick Hansen, explained to Miami New Times why the political committee didn’t pursue home growing for this initiative. “We looked at home grow, and I think it’s something probably for the next chapter of the movement [in] Florida, but at this point, I don’t think it’s something we can get across the finish line at 60-plus [percent],” he said. 

Not allowing home growing will only further benefit the corporations that stand to gain huge profits if this initiative passes. The two other petitions to legalize recreational cannabis in Florida, Regulate Florida and Floridians for Freedom, would allow residents to grow cannabis at home.

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