Marijuana. It is a hot topic in the U.S. right now. With states like Colorado, Washington, and California continually creating new laws to allow for more liberties with this drug, it seems inevitable that other states will start to follow suit. While marijuana is still illegal federally, many state laws have been adapted to make certain uses legal.
Currently, marijuana is still illegal in Florida except for limited medical uses. The penalties for being caught in possession of marijuana for an unapproved use can be extreme, especially if you are found with more than 20 grams ($5,000 in fines and 5 years in prison).
Expansion of Marijuana Usage for Terminally Ill
So what proposed laws are on the table for Florida lawmakers? There is a new medical marijuana bill up for approval: Florida House Bill 307. Just last Wednesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz announced his new bill, followed by Sen. Rob Bradley stating that he will be sponsoring a similar bill in the Florida Senate. Approval of the bill would expand the current laws on medical marijuana usage for terminally ill patients.
While this may seem like a very restrictive use, the passing of the bill could open the door for broader medical legalization over the next election year. With polls already showing a majority of voters support making cannabis more available to patients, Florida lawmakers must continue to find solutions that everyone can agree on for this issue.
Potential Constitutional Amendment
In addition to the bill, November 2016 holds the prospect of passing a constitutional amendment that will allow for further expansion of legal marijuana usage. Those that back the initiative to make marijuana more accessible to patients have a long way to go, however. They must still get the approval of the Florida Supreme Court on specific ballot language and get enough petition signatures to bring the issue to voters.
While the bill is not mean to fight the proposed amendment, it may create some obstacles, as lawmakers like to see medical marijuana issues dealt with in the Legislature.
Benefits of New Laws on Medical Marijuana
Last year Colorado pulled in $44 million in taxes from recreational pot sales and $75 million in medical marijuana taxes and fees. While Florida is not jumping right into the legalization of recreational marijuana, the economic benefits and perks of marijuana may eventually play a part in how lawmakers assess the issue. More importantly, Florida residents have been endorsing pro-medical marijuana for numerous years. This is a decision that the people are asking for and lawmakers have to respond at some point.
Even if medical marijuana was fully legalized, that does not mean recreational usage will follow. Many supporters of medical pot are strictly against recreational usage. In other words, the verdict is still out on whether recreational usage is something Floridians wants—the same can’t necessarily be said for medical marijuana legislation, which has been given a majority approval in the USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey.