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Florida Marijuana Initiative Will ‘Improve Quality Of Life’ By Providing Alcohol Alternative, Top Cannabis CEO Says, Pushing Back Against DeSantis

If Florida voters approve a marijuana legalization initiative at the ballot, that could actually “improve quality of life” for residents—in contrast with the governor’s recent comments to the contrary—the CEO of a multi-state cannabis operator that has financially supported the campaign says.

“The sky has not fallen” with Florida’s implementation of medical cannabis legalization under an earlier initiative, “and folks see that choice is a good thing,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said during an interview on The Dales Report’s “Trade To Black” podcast on Monday.

“When you compare marijuana to alcohol…the data is very, very clear that cannabis, by all metrics—whether you’re talking about DUIs, whether you’re talking about hospital visits, whether you’re talking about deaths, when you’re talking about long-term side effects—is significantly safer and should be an alternative that is offered to Floridians,” she said in response to a question submitted by Marijuana Moment. “I would actually say that I think we can improve quality of life.”

Will Floridians ultimately pass the measure with in the state? Rivers says, “Hell yeah.”

The comments about quality-of-life implications of cannabis legalization follow Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) . He called the proposal “radical” and argued that it will “reduce the quality of life” in the state.

The marijuana legalization measure was only officially cleared for the ballot last week after  seeking to invalidate it.

Rivers, who’s multi-state cannabis operator company Trulieve for ballot placement, reiterated that she disagrees with DeSantis’s position on the measure because voters stand to benefit from “having an alternative [to alcohol] that is absolutely, scientifically, evidence-backed” healthier.

DeSantis, for his part, said last week that enactment of the reform would mean “this state will start to smell like marijuana in our cities and towns,” which seems to be a particular concern for the governor, who has previously .

“It will reduce the quality of life,” he said, adding that Florida already has a medical cannabis program that his administration implemented following voter approval of the reform in 2016.

“Do we really need to do more with that?” he asked. “Do we want to have more marijuana in our communities? I don’t think it’ll work out well, but it is a very, very broad amendment.”

Rivers said that “DeSantis has been consistent for a long time around his comments around the smell and around, you know, not necessarily being excited about having marijuana everywhere. I think there’s some additional education that needs to happen there, which we’ve been working on.”

“The amendment specifically allows for the legislature to come in and to regulate what’s called ‘time place and manner,’ and to prohibit—just like they do with alcohol use, just like they do with cigarette use—consumption in certain places,” she said.

She also said that, in addition to questions about issues such as possession limits and tax rates for marijuana policy, the legislature is positioned to decide on another key policy consideration if voters pass legalization at the ballot: a possible home cultivation option for adults that is not comprised in the ballot initiative itself.

“I sure hope so,” Rivers said about the prospect of allowing home cultivation down the line, in response to another Marijuana Moment-submitted question, adding that advocates were careful not to include that allowance in the base measure because of a constitutional single-subject rule for the ballot.

If legalization is approved then, “as a secondary step, you would come in and say, ‘OK, home grow now is allowable,’” she said. “That can be done just like anything, right? The legislative process or through amendment.”

As drafted, the measure if approved would change the state Constitution to allow existing medical cannabis companies in the state like Trulieve to begin selling marijuana to all adults over 21. It contains a provision that would allow—but not require—lawmakers to take steps toward the approval of additional businesses. Home cultivation by consumers would not be allowed under the proposal as drafted.

Adults 21 and older would be able to purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis, only five grams of which could be marijuana concentrate products. The three-page measure also omits equity provisions favored by advocates such as expungements or other relief for people with prior cannabis convictions.

Separately, economic analysts from the Florida legislature and the the governor’s office estimate that the marijuana legalization initiative would  in new sales tax revenue annually if voters enact it. And those figures could increase considerably if lawmakers opted to impose an additional excise tax on cannabis transactions that’s similar to the ones in place in other legalized states.

Here’s what the Smart & Safe Florida marijuana legalization initiative would accomplish:

  • Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis for personal use. The cap for marijuana concentrates would be five grams.
  • Medical cannabis dispensaries could “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute marijuana products and marijuana accessories to adults for personal use.”
  • The legislature would be authorized—but not required—to approve additional entities that are not currently licensed cannabis dispensaries.
  • The initiative specifies that nothing in the proposal prevents the legislature from “enacting laws that are consistent with this amendment.”
  • The amendment further clarifies that nothing about the proposal “changes federal law,” which seems to be an effort to avoid past legal challenges about misleading ballot language.
  • There are no provisions for home cultivation, expungement of prior records or social equity.
  • The measure would take effect six months following approval by voters.

“Allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise; allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories. Applies to Florida law; does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law. Establishes possession limits for personal use. Allows consistent legislation. Defines terms. Provides effective date.”

The Florida Chamber of Commerce released a poll in January showing that a marijuana legalization initiative that may appear on the November ballot enjoys majority support from likely voters—.

Other previous polls have found that  with more than enough support. For example, the University of North Florida put out a survey in December that showed 67 percent of voters back the proposal.

Meanwhile, there’s significant interest in how , and whether he will publicly support or oppose it.

Also, a Florida bill that sought to  at the ballot died this session, much to the relief of cannabis advocates and stakeholders.

Legislation to  was approved by lawmakers and awaits DeSantis’s action.

Separately, a House subcommittee recently advanced a medical marijuana bill that would  for service-disabled military veterans.

Despite his opposition to the initiative, DeSantis, the former GOP presidential candidate who dropped out of the race in January, previously accurately .

Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) successfully petitioned justices to .

DeSantis also weighed in on another relevant cannabis policy issue earlier this year when, while still a presidential candidate, he said that . Florida’s former agriculture commission, Nikki Fried, , though the governor did not get involved.

Prior to dropping out, DeSantis also said that if elected president, he would  despite his personal view that the reform has a “negative impact.”

While DeSantis doubts the cannabis initiative will receive the requisite 60 percent of the vote at the upcoming election, the Smart & Safe Florida campaign behind the measure is optimistic. And they announced last week that they’ve  as it gears up for an effort to raise awareness about the measure among voters.

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