Supporters of a citizen initiative that would allow for the recreational usage of marijuana in Florida say they are encouraged by a poll released Thursday showing an overwhelming number of voters support the the idea of letting Floridians buy and even grow their own cannabis.
The poll, released by Quinnipiac University, shows Florida voters support 65 – 30 percent allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Quinnipiac notes that’s an “all-time high” in the state,
Karen Seeb Goldstein, vice chair of Regulate Florida, the group that is promoting the initiative, says the poll numbers give those involved in the legalization effort added confidence and reflects what Regulate Florida volunteers are seeing out in the field. She suggests the Quinnipiac numbers might be low.
“We’re not surprised by that,” said Goldstein. “The stigma surrounding marijuana, cannabis, whatever you prefer, the whole negative myth about it has been disproven as more and more people become accustomed to it. They are learning about the medicinal benefits and the lack of harm.
“People are very enthusiastic,” Goldstein added. “We are getting amazing positive feedback. All we have to do is mention adult use of marijuana and they line up to sign it.”
To get its amendment on the 2020 ballot, Regulate Florida must submit the valid signatures of 766,200 registered voters to the Florida Division of Elections. As of Friday morning, the group had submitted 62,919.
Backers of the initiative are closing in on 76,632 signatures. Thats the mark that triggers a review of the amendment’s ballot summary to determine if it meets the state constitutional requirements, as well as a review of the amendment’s financial impact on the state.
Earlier this year, the Legislature enacted new requirements for petition gathers that critics insist are designed to make it more difficult for citizen initiatives to make the ballot. The new law creates restrictions for campaigns that pay petition gatherers. All paid petition gatherers must now register with the state. Initiatives must pay petition gatherers by the hour and not by the signature, as they have done in the past.
Organizations promoting initiatives must have numbered, serialized petitions provided by county elections offices.
Petition-gathers must register with the state and have a permanent Florida address. Violating the new rules could result in fines and criminal charges, including $50 fines for signed petitions turned in after 30 days and $500 fines for petitions never turned in.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said last month he wasn’t confident the new restrictions went far enough.
“We’ve let too much policy go into the constitution,” said DeSantis. “If you want to do policy through an initiative, it should be a statutory initiative.”
“Of course it’s going to make it more difficult, but it is not insurmountable. It’s not going to be a deal-killer for us,” Goldstein said about the new rules.
Regulate Florida says it has a strong volunteer network and already has a contract signed with some petition gathering groups, which will be grandfathered in under the new rules.
“We have to pay them by the hour, unless we already have an existing contract and we already have an existing contract,” Goldstein added. “So, that aspect of [the new rules] should not affect us.”
For now, Regulate Florida is focused on hitting the the mark to trigger the judicial and financial review of the amendment. It still needs nearly 14,000 signatures to hit that mark. The group plans to submit another 10,000 voter signatures soon.
“We hope to reach it very, very soon,” Goldstein said. “We don’t really have a deadline in mind. As soon as possible.”
And after that, Regulate Florida will need about 700,000 signatures to make the 2020 ballot.
“We’re undaunted,” Goldstein insists. “Failure is not an option.”
Especially when the polls like Thursday’s Quinnipiac survey indicate voters would likely support a marijuana legalization amendment if it reaches the ballot.