With an adult-use marijuana legalization measure potentially headed for Florida’s ballot this November, Lawmakers on the state’s House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee approved an amended version of a measure that would preemptively limit THC in recreational cannabis products.
Before advancing the bill, HB 1269, the panel first adopted an amendment from its sponsor, Rep. Ralph Massullo (R) significantly raising the proposed cap on THC for marijuana flower to 30 percent, up from 10 percent in the bill as originally introduced.
Members then voted 13–4 to report the bill favorably.
“Due to a variety of reasons, we’re only at the beginning of understanding the potential long-term benefits and harms of high-potency THC marijuana products,” Massullo told subcommittee members, noting that his proposed limits “will only take affect if the constitutional amendment is adopted.”
“I’m not going to tell you my opinion on recreational marijuana,” he said before the panel vote, “but I will say this: We are tasked with keeping the public safe. It’s important that we think about that with a long-term vision and not be reactive.”
As more states have legalized marijuana and highly concentrated THC products become more widely available, some have raised concerns about apparent associations between high-THC products and mental health problems, especially in developing brains.
In addition to the revised restriction on smokable marijuana, Massullo’s measure would also impose a 60 percent THC limit on all other marijuana products and set a 10-milligram THC serving size for edibles, with no more than 200 mg per package.
Despite the subcommittee advancing the bill, some members expressed concerns with the proposal.
The panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Robin Bartleman (D), said she was voting against the bill because “I don’t believe we should be piecemealing this.” Instead, she urged colleagues to prepare to adopt “a more comprehensive package” that includes a suite of adult-use cannabis regulations.
“I’d rather wait and deal with everything at once,” Bartleman said.
Rep. Kelly Skidmore (D) expressed similar concerns. While she applauded the bill for “being visionary and looking forward,” she said THC caps were just one of the things lawmakers would need to address if voters approve recreational marijuana.
“How are we going to regulate that? Who’s going to get those licenses? Is it going to be in every convenience store?” she asked. “I think there are many, many things that we need to talk about and discuss, and this is just a little bit premature for me.”
Two other lawmakers said they had reservations but would nevertheless support the proposal, especially in light of the increased THC cap on marijuana flower.
“Oftentimes, you know, people are driven to the illicit marketplace. It’s not regulated at all,” said Rep. Gallop Franklin II (D), noting that hazardous adulterants in unregulated products can cause more harm than THC itself.
Rep. Adam Anderson (R), another yes vote, said an unintended consequence of low THC limits could simply be people consuming more marijuana “to get the effects that they want”—a concept known as self-titration.
“They’re going to be smoking more and more of the plant, which might have other additives and other materials that could potentially be harmful,” he said.
Anderson said he decided to support the amended bill because he felt it’s “our responsibility as lawmakers to be proactive.”
“I commend your efforts to get ahead of this and being productive and sending some guidance out to the industry of what this policy will look like,” he told Massullo.
The bill, introduced by Massullo last month, would take effect 30 days after voters pass any constitutional amendment to enact legalization.
Florida’s medical cannabis dosage limits, meanwhile,—which were revised under controversial rules adopted in 2022, despite pushback from then-Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D)—are not based on the percentage of THC in a given product.
While the legalization measure itself has not yet officially qualified for November’s ballot, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) recently predicted a favorable legal outcome for activists in the Supreme Court in the face of a challenge from the attorney general who is seeking to block the vote.
“I think the court is going to approve that,” the governor said at his final campaign event in New Hampshire last month, “so it’ll be on the ballot.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) has asked the court to invalidate the measure, despite activists collecting nearly one million signatures for ballot placement. The state official previously successfully petitioned justices to prevent a 2022 legalization initiative from receiving voter consideration.
That won’t be the case this round, according to the governor. While he opposes the reform—and pledged not to federally decriminalize marijuana if elected president when he was running—he says voters will get a chance to decide on the issue this time.
The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case against the Smart & Safe Florida campaign last November, but it has not issued a ruling yet. It will need to do so by April 1.
DeSantis also weighed in on another relevant cannabis policy issue last week when he separately told Murphy that he doesn’t believe the federal gun ban for state-legal marijuana consumers is constitutional. Florida’s former agriculture commission, Nikki Fried, brought a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the rule, though the governor did not get involved.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce released a poll last month showing that the reform proposal enjoys majority support from likely voters—but not quite enough to meet the state’s steep 60 percent threshold for passage.
That said, other previous polls have found that voters are well positioned to pass the legalization initiative with more than enough support. For example, the University of North Florida put out a survey last month that showed 67 percent of voters back the proposal.
The multi-state marijuana company Trulieve has contributed more than $40 million to the Smart and Safe Florida campaign to date. The state attorney general has accused the company of supporting the measure in order to have a “monopolistic stranglehold” on the state’s cannabis market.
—Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.—
If approved, the measure 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 one ounce 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.
Economic analysts from the Florida legislature and DeSantis’s office estimate that the marijuana legalization initiative would generate between $195.6 million and $431.3 million 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.
But DeSantis has made clear he would not support the measure regardless of the economic potential. He also recently suggested that the increase in Florida’s medical cannabis patient population is partly due to people using the program as a “pretext” for recreational use.
Last summer, a law enacted by the governor took effect that added restrictions to medical marijuana advertising and manufacturing, prohibiting any products or messages that promote “recreational” cannabis use, while adding more stringent eligibility requirements for workers in the industry.
Additionally, the governor approved a bill in June that expressly prohibits sober living facilities from allowing residents to possess or use medical marijuana, even if the patient is certified by a doctor to legally use cannabis therapeutically in accordance with state law. All other doctor-prescribed pharmaceutical medications may be permitted, however.
He also signed legislation in July banning sales of any consumable hemp products—including cannabis “chewing gum”—to people under 21, an expansion of an existing prohibition on young people being able to purchase smokable hemp.
The organizer of a separate Florida ballot initiative to legalize home cultivation of medical marijuana by patients recently withdrew the proposal, explaining that the campaign raised barely more than $4,000 and couldn’t cover costs associated with trying to qualify the measure.
In the legislature, meanwhile, a Florida Republican senator introduced a bill in December to allow licensed medical cannabis businesses to take state tax deductions that they are barred from claiming at the federal level under an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E.
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