Florida's Adult Use Market: Will 2024 Be the Year?

Florida's Adult Use Market: Will 2024 Be the Year?

Florida is home to the most extensive medical marijuana program in the US, with 878,510 qualified patients. Yet its leaders have largely thwarted adult-use efforts until recently. After several failed initiatives, the 2024 general election will be Florida’s first chance to legalize recreational marijuana. If voters approve the bill, the state’s cannabis industry will grow exponentially, and adults will have the freedom to purchase and possess flower and derivative products for any reason. 

This article reviews Florida’s historical legalization setbacks. It also examines the state’s 2024 adult-use Amendment, its contents, and its chances of success this election season.

 Contact ACS Laboratory to learn about Florida compliance testing for cannabis and hemp.

History of Cannabis Legalization Setbacks in Florida

In 2016, voters approved Amendment 2, legalizing medical marijuana in Florida, but not recreational. Subsequent attempts to legalize adult use in the 2020 and 2022 election seasons failed due to various challenges and setbacks. 

In 2019, “Make it Legal Florida” and “Regulate Florida” launched legalization petitions, but neither gathered enough signatures to move forward.

Make It Legal Florida, in particular, received significant financial backing from major cannabis brands, MedMen and Surterra. However, tight signature deadlines, a glitchy elections website, and restrictive gathering requirements obstructed the efforts. Additionally, state leaders, including the Florida House, Senate, and Chamber of Commerce, came out in opposition to all legalization efforts.

Following the signatures setback, both organizations shifted focus to the 2022 election season. Unfortunately, those legalization efforts stalled as well.

The Make it Legal team gathered over 556,000 of the 891,589 required signatures that year. However, Florida’s Supreme Court struck down the proposal before it could reach the finish line, ruling that the amendment was misleading because it did not clarify cannabis’ legal status. The amendment stated that cannabis would be legal in Florida if passed. However, it did not clarify that the plant remains federally banned and could still result in federal penalties. This ambiguity made the amendment unconstitutional, according to the justices. 

Similar verbiage issues invalidated two other ballot proposals, including Regulate Florida’s amendment that allowed people to grow up to nine cannabis plants at home. 

The 2024 Legalization Initiative in Florida 

Supreme Court rulings and reluctant state leadership contributed to the stalled legalization efforts. But that’s about to change. 

Floridians will finally get the chance to vote for recreational cannabis use on November 5, 2024, thanks to Smart and Safe Florida’s successful campaign. One million people signed onto Smart and Safe’s Amendment 3, which was funded by Florida’s largest medical marijuana company. 

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody requested the Supreme Court reject the measure for the same reason it denied Make it Legal’s 2022 Amendment. Moody argued that the bill’s language failed to clarify marijuana’s federally illicit status, enticing consumers to “willfully break federal law” in the name of corporate profit. Moody also asserted that the bill would require the Legislature to create new dispensary licenses beyond those currently in place.  However, in a 5-2 ruling, the Supreme Court disagreed. 

Justice Jamie Grosshans wrote the majority opinion stating that the ballot language was not unclear and did not require the Legislature to create new licenses.  

“We do not believe the summary would confuse a voter into thinking that the legislature is required to authorize additional licenses.” Adding, “A “ballot summary need not (and because of the statutory word limit, often cannot) explain at great and undue length’ the complete details of a proposed amendment, and some onus falls - 15 - upon voters to educate themselves about the substance of the proposed amendment.”

What Does Amendment 3 Mean?

If Amendment 3 passes in Florida, the state’s two dozen licensed cannabis providers will be able to grow and sell products to anyone over 21 years old. However, Floridians will not be allowed to grow plants at home.

Amendment 3 allows adults to possess:

  • Up to three ounces, or about 85 grams, of cannabis flower for personal use
  • Of the 85 grams, five grams can be concentrates 

MMTCs will be the only licensed adult-use dispensaries to start. The Legislature also retains the right to regulate public use of marijuana just as it does with tobacco and alcohol.

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Is Florida’s Legalization Bill Likely to Pass?

Sixty percent of Florida voters must approve Amendment 3 for it to become law. Gaining 60% approval may be challenging, as only a handful of states have surpassed that percentage. However, it is absolutely possible.

Surveys from January to May reveal the following sentiment toward adult-use in Florida:

  • A January 2024 survey by the Florida Chamber of Commerce found 57% support for adult use, and their May survey revealed 58% support. 
  • A University of North Florida survey revealed 67% support. (MM - “Florida’s recreational ballot will fail, gov says). 
  • An April USA Today/Ipsos poll found that 56% of registered voters endorsed the measure. 
  • A Florida Atlantic University poll found 47% support. 

Despite several sub-60 surveys, Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers says the company’s internal numbers show closer to 70 percent approval. 

A Look Ahead at Florida’s Potential Adult-Use Market

Florida already has the country’s most extensive medical marijuana program. If Amendment 3 passes, Florida may soon become one of the nation’s leaders in recreational cannabis as the third most populous state in the country. 

At $2 billion in medical sales, Florida could see its cannabis revenue grow to $6.1 billion in the first year of legalization. Additionally, Florida could starting taxing recreational products, similar to other adult-use states. Based on other state markets, Florida retail sales could generate $195.6 million annually in state and local sales tax alone.

Maryland, which legalized adult use in 2023 after having a medical program in place, experienced a 2.25X increase in monthly sales immediately following legalization.

Florida's legislature will later determine the exact terms of cannabis taxation and regulation. Regardless of the details, Amendment 3 requires the state to revise the existing medical marijuana framework and develop a new structure for both industries within six months of the passage.

Will adult-use products cost more than medical marijuana in Florida?

Adult-use cannabis products in Florida will likely cost more than medical because of added state and local taxes. Still, Florida adults may choose the recreational route for convenience purposes and to avoid paying $75 annually for medical license renewal plus doctors visits costs. 

Will Floridians have access to more products in an adult-use market?

Smokable flower currently makes up nearly half of all sales in Florida’s medical marijuana market, with concentrates accounting for the other half. Some industry players say the recreational market could bring even more formulas to the current cannabis assortment. However, the exact types remain to be seen. 

ACS Laboratory is closely monitoring the status of Amendment 3 in Florida. It will be ready to serve licensed dispensaries with award-winning cannabis testing once the initiative receives 60% support. Contact ACS Laboratory today to learn more and start testing.