MedMen-Backed Florida Legalization Campaign Is Raking in Cash

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Adult use cannabis use could soon be legal in Florida, and two groups are competing for a chance to shape its rollout. New campaign finance documents show the campaigns are raking in some major cash, and one is far out-raising the other.

Make It Legal Florida, which launched in August, brought in nearly $1.2 million during its first month of fundraising. The group is spearheaded by multistate cannabis giant MedMen, and is one of two groups hoping to put a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot. MedMen pitched in $650,000, with the remaining funds coming from the Georgia-based Surterra Wellness, which is a major operator in Florida. Make It Legal Florida has yet to submit any valid signatures to the state.

Meanwhile, Sensible Florida, backed by advocacy organizations like NORML Florida, brought in a low $9,637, records show. Sensible Florida has more than 88,000 valid signatures, enough to trigger a required state Supreme Court review. (An amendment needs 76,632 signatures for a judicial and financial review and 766,200 to appear on the ballot.)

Each measure, if approved, would transform the cannabis industry in Florida. Florida’s current system for medical cannabis requires operators to be vertically integrated. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis originally spoke out against vertical integration. At a January news conference, DeSantis said it was “not [based on] free market principles.” In recent weeks, he has walked back his position, saying that while he doesn’t think it was the best policy, he believes the law is constitutional. The Florida Supreme Court is set to weigh in on the current law as well, after a Leon County circuit judge ruled in 2018 that the state’s vertically integrated licensing structure is unconstitutional and a state appeals court last month punted the decision to the state’s high court.

Make It Legal Florida wants to keep the status quo. In other words, the proposal would expand the state’s medical cannabis program to include adult use, based on existing regulations, including vertical integration. And it would allow existing licensees, or Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, to “sell, distribute, or dispense marijuana and marijuana accessories.” It would be up to the Florida Department of Health to draft any additional rules or to license additional companies. 

On the other hand, Sensible Florida’s proposal aims to make the cannabis market more accessible for smaller operators by scrapping the current vertical integration system. Regulatory authority would be transferred from the Department of Health to the Department of Business and Professional regulation. Individual applicants must’ve lived in Florida for at least six months, and 25% of business applicants have to be Florida residents. It would also permit individuals to grow up to six plants at home, unlike Make It Legal Florida’s approach. 

Michael Minardi, chairman of Sensible Florida, told Cannabis Wire that their amendment “provides a lot of protections for the people in the state of Florida,” and, in reference to the vertical integration, “tries to prevent the current problems that we have.”

Minardi added that Make It Legal Florida’s amendment would likely face legal challenges, similar to the ongoing lawsuit over the state’s medical cannabis licenses before the Supreme Court. 

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