By Michael C. Minardi, Esq.
The right to be part of the democratic process is something that makes America a great country. Controversies over reform have existed since the beginning, the democratic process allows the laws and acceptable norms in society to evolve. The same is true with cannabis, yet there is still much work to be done. We can choose right not to make sure it happens sooner rather than later. We are winning on multiple fronts, public opinion, science, and the proof in other robust cannabis markets. Where we are losing is in the legislature, and we have the ability to change that. The question is how? For those of us in the cannabis industry this election year is shaping up to be hugely important for how this industry is shaped in the state of Florida. As Floridians we are lucky to have multiple ways that we can influence policy.
We enter an election year where the main concern of voters are the economy, immigration, gun control, the environment and health care. Cannabis and hemp as cash crops have shown to be the boost many states have need to be back on track, reductions in health care costs, prescription drug deaths, less violent crime, and increase in tourism and tax dollars are all seen time and time again in legal states. We can and should have that in Florida.
The problem is, unfortunately, our legislators who get elected are those that have certain ideologies that are supported by people with big money, big money as against us. Like an Arizona when their adult use petition was on their ballot they had big pharma step in, here in Florida we had Drug Free America and Mel Sembler step in to fund the fight against medical marijuana. These people then influenced the current law our legislator passed. We may not have the ability of the millions of dollars to influence politicians, but we do have the power of the people. This election season the cannabis community needs to come together behind candidates who support this issue and get them elected to make sure that our interests are not only represented at the ballot box but also in the legislature. No prohibition without representation. It’s about time the patients and people who use this plant because they choose to do so or need to do so for medical purposes make these candidates take a stand. There are many ways that we can do this NORML of Florida, has released candidate grades on cannabis, the Cannabis Executive Committee, newly launched, to bring together those who support expanding and opening up the cannabis industry. The legislature is against everyone’s interests, and this legislative session they will probably work on preventing hemp CBD companies and an open horizontal market form existing. They will continue to prevent access and companies from making edibles and really the proliferation of this plant that voters approved. Only with placing the right people in office and supporting organizations that can support them with greater breadth will we be able to make sure that this industry evolves the way the voters believed this industry would.
The second way we have to change policy is with a ballot initiative for a vote on a constitutional amendment. Only in years where we have had a ballot initiative for cannabis hanging over the heads of the legislature did they pass any laws. They are continuing to deny the will of the people, despite 71% of the people in Florida voting yes on Amendment 2. They have continued their reign throughout the 2018 legislative session despite facing approximately a dozen lawsuits, and continuing to lose and spend the tax payer dollars to defend against the will of the people. The ballot initiative dictates to the legislature and would immediately give people the right to cultivate. We must start planning for the future we must get organized and active NOW, not tomorrow or next year. That is why Regulate Florida, a ballot initiative for adults use is so important, at a minimum it would give people the right to grow and smoke cannabis, and it would clearly require a horizontal market and it would instantly solve problems we are currently having under the current amendment. This right through a ballot initiative is not something we should take for granted, but something we should make sure we have hanging over their head to further influence reform. Ballot initiatives are vital to making sure that our legislature understands that if they do not act that they do not protect the patience and institute the will of the people that the people themselves will rise up and will pass an initiative that do.
We must push this issue through all methods, voting, supporting candidates, lawsuits and ballot initiatives.
If you believe in this movement and want to ensure patients have access to medical marijuana and want to support people who choose cannabis, please join Regulate Florida, NORML of Florida, and the Cannabis Executive Committee. These organizations are dedicated to making sure the voters are educated for this election season and that we put people in to the legislature that support the will of the people and the expansion in the right of people to use this plant.
Michael Mindardi, Esq., Minardi Law, can be reached at Michael@MinardiLaw.com or (813) 995-8227.