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Stakeholders predict economic boom if Florida permits recreational weed

'Getting a ballot initiative across the finish line in any state is not an easy task,' Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers says
Posted at 5:51 PM, Nov 15, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's marijuana industry could triple in size if voters approve recreational use next year. That's according to one of the state's largest medical cannabis producers, Trulieve.

The company is helping bankroll the ballot initiative to legalize weed for those 21 and older. It's already contributed nearly $40 million to the effort and gotten the signatures needed to get on the ballot.

Trulieve's CEO Kim Rivers said it could be big business for the Sunshine State. Their internal estimates suggested the $2 billion medical marijuana industry could expand to $6 billion with recreational use permitted.

"That's the math," Rivers said. "We have 21 million residents here in the state of Florida, growing all the time — folks found us post-COVID — then 138 million unique tourist visits a year."

Legalizing weed would be an obvious boon for the company. Rivers said it would mean more jobs and an expansion of operations, which already includes the nation's largest legal indoor cultivation facility, located outside Tallahassee.

Florida could theoretically benefit too with a windfall of new sales tax revenue. California alone is taking in a billion per year. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, in 2022, legalized states nabbed a combined $15.2 billion via recreational sales.

Hurdles remain to even get the measure in front of voters. Last week, Florida Supreme Court justices reviewed the initiative's proposed ballot language — which Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody's office alleges is too vague for Floridians to understand. Justices are now deliberating whether they agree with no firm timeline for a ruling.

If the measure meets muster, it'll be on next November's ballot where 60% voter support is needed to pass. It'll then be up to the legislature to craft laws implementing the idea, which could pose another hurdle.

There are many in the state's GOP majority who are opposed to recreational weed. That includes Gov. Ron DeSantis who said in June that if he is elected president, he would not decriminalize it on the federal level.

"This stuff is very powerful now — that they're putting on the street," DeSantis told a South Carolina crowd. "These kids do it. It's really bad for the youth."

If DeSantis returns to Tallahassee, supporters worry Republicans would create strict rules to undermine legalization. They cite Florida's felon voter laws as an example, which require all fines and fees to be met before a convict can receive a restoration of rights.

But whether the door to legal weed is closed or not is just speculation at this point. Florida, it seems, is still making up its mind as supporters wonder whether to hold their breath.

"Getting a ballot initiative across the finish line in any state is not an easy task," Rivers said. "That being said, we're certainly encouraged by where we are today."