Cannabis law and policy has changed dramatically in the past decade, with nearly a dozen states voting to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21. More than double that amount have legalized the herb for medicinal purposes, with Florida being one of them. In 2016, Floridians overwhelmingly approved Florida Constitutional Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana for the use in treating a host of ailments. The Amendment even contained language that further broadened the spectrum of treatable conditions by including any condition of the same type or class (or otherwise resulting in similar symptoms) to the list. This has resulted in a booming medical marijuana industry in Florida that has netted over $17,000,000 USD in sales in the past year as of mid-2018.
With over 150,000 patients in the registry, the budding program has found success despite opposition from the State of Florida and direct opposition from (soon to be former) Governor Rick Scott. Many patients have found that their lives have changed after joining the medical cannabis program, with some finding that they are able to discontinue use of more harsh and addicting pharmaceutical chemicals in treating their ailments.
The climate of cannabis legalization is changing outside the borders of our beloved Sunshine State as well, with some elected officials publicly expressing support of federal legalization. The legalization, taxation, and regulation of cannabis could prove an extremely lucrative opportunity that would benefit all the citizens of Florida – and it needs to be passed in 2020.
1.) It will generate revenue for the State – a lot of it.
Remember how I said Florida had already grossed over $17,000,000 USD from Medical Marijuana in mid 2018? This has been achieved in the face of opposition from our elected officials. Imagine the sheer volume of revenue we could generate if all adults over the age of 21 were able to legally consume cannabis, just as they consume alcohol (a substance that can actually kill you). It’s not too hard; we just have to look to our neighbors to the west. With just over 6 years of legalization, as of September 2018, Colorado had generated over $5 Billion USD in legal cannabis sales. And they don’t have any beaches. With Floridians voting to ban dog racing in the state during the 2018 midterms, there should be even more incentive to make up for (and exceed) the resulting gap in revenue.
Imagine all the cannabis tourism opportunities we could use for the benefit of all our citizens. Imagine the new wave of cannabis themed restaurants, hotels, outdoor activity packages that could be created. This is in addition to the sheer volume of cannabis sales from the dispensaries that could operate under the same regulations as other related businesses. This is a missed opportunity for Florida if we don’t capitalize on it in 2020. Support for legalization is also at an all-time high throughout the United States. Now is the time.
2.) It’s safer than so many other substances that are already legal.
Where do we start? Alcohol. Tobacco. Pharmaceuticals. The list goes on and on. It’s been repeated until it’s become a cliche: after millennia of human consumption, nobody has ever died from marijuana use alone. We know tobacco causes many forms of cancer, but we allow it to be taxed and regulated. We know alcohol can result in fatal overdoses, destroy families and individuals, and lead to violence and aggression, but it is commonly accepted and even encouraged in various facets of American Society. It simply makes no sense to continue to tarnish lives and personal records over a substance that grows naturally on Earth and is ready or consumption after simply drying the flowers. The prohibition of cannabis is an artifact of a failed War on Drugs, and it’s time that Florida vote to truly make progress and do what is best for its people through legalization of cannabis.
3.) It’s already saving lives.
Forget about the controversy of using marijuana to treat “anxiety” and look to where it’s already proven to ease epileptic seizures through a compound contained in hemp and marijuana plants known as cannabidiol (CBD). At the very least, we know cannabis is capable of this; further investigation on the Internet yields thousands upon thousands of testimonials of individuals who were able to regain a better quality of life after beginning treatment with Cannabis. There is so much potential for medicinal use of this herb if it were more widely available for testing and clinical trials. The stigma is ending, and the evidence shows that this is helping far more people than any reports of it doing the opposite.
4.) Statistics show that teen cannabis use does not increase with legalization in at least one instance.
A common argument against the full-on legalization of marijuana is that it will be more readily available, and as a result, teen marijuana use will increase, destroying the futures of our youth along with it. However, we look to Colorado again to find that statistics show this is not the case. Teen use of cannabis has actually trended to an all-time low in Colorado as of 2017.
Another fact: most of us were teenagers at one time. We always found a way to get what we wanted (legality notwithstanding), so it is my personal belief that this argument doesn’t hold much water in the first place.
5.) It allows our Law Enforcement Officers to focus more on the issues that are plaguing our society in a time when we need it most.
If nothing else, most of us can agree that violence is bad, and we need as many resources as possible to ensure that our people are kept safe. Far too many man hours have already been spent in the pursuit of crimes that do harm to no one. Many counties and cities in Florida have already passed laws that decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana allowing their law enforcement to focus on violent crime and other issues that are far more detrimental to society. If the entire state gets on the same page, that means we spend less money to get more results in curtailing the crimes that do us all the most harm: violent crimes, fraudulent crimes, organized crimes; the list goes on and on. We have different societal issues to solve in 2018, like the rising number of mass shootings throughout the country. We need our law enforcement officers to protect us, not harass us.
2020 may seem far off at the time of writing this piece, but we all know how quickly these events creep up on us. It’s time for us to get on the same page as Floridians who want the best for each other. Now is the time to have these discussions, to sign any relevant petitions, to be vocal, to be heard. Let’s get this thing on the ballot and overwhelmingly pass it, just like we did 2 years ago. Florida needs this for its people and for its economy, possibly more now than at any other time in recent history.