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US (FL): Cannabis industry gears up for potential gold rush

Two years from now, Florida might be among the rapidly growing number of states that allow adult, non-medical use of cannabis. 

As of March 3, more than 420,000 Floridians had signed a petition in support of the Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which would appear on the 2024 general election ballot and allow voters to decide whether the state constitution should be amended to allow for full legalization of cannabis use and sales.

Led by Smart & Safe Florida, a $30 million political action committee funded mostly by medical cannabis giant Trulieve, petitioners are more than halfway to their goal of 891,589 signatures, making it likely the fate of adult recreational cannabis use will be decided on November 5, 2024. If challenged in court, the Florida Supreme Court could rule against it, of course, but proponents believe the ballot initiative is worded in such a way that it will pass muster legally. Other initiatives for recreational marijuana, in 2019 and 2021, didn't make it to election day. 

"I think if it gets on the ballot, it does pass," says Brady Cobb, CEO of Sunburn Cannabis and son of the late Bill Cobb, one of Florida's most notorious marijuana smugglers. "The polling has been relatively consistent in that in that respect. Getting it on the ballot has always been the stumbling block. But I think of all the amendments thus far; this one has the best chance to do it, based on how it's drafted."

The nascent industry has been a boon for Florida's coffers, generating $73.8 million in tax revenue in 2020 alone, in addition to more than $50 million in license fees.

Even without a non-medical program, Florida's cannabis industry is now the third-largest in the nation, according to Leafly, a company that specializes in cannabis news and education. Many who work in the industry believe that, given its already fast-growing population and popularity with tourists, it could easily be No. 1 if the ballot initiative passes.


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