PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Voters in Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational marijuana use on Election Day and restarted the debate in Florida. Could it happen here? When it comes to marijuana, the national political landscape is very different now than it was just a couple of days ago.
Could Florida become the next state to legalize some uses of marijuana?
"In Florida, we are still behind the times compared to other states," said State Representative Jeff Clemens, (D) District 89. "People still have older attitudes toward the drug," he said. Clemens sponsored a bill to get medical marijuana on this Tuesday's election ballot. It failed to make it's way through the republican-controlled legislature.
Clemens says it is in Florida's financial interest to consider changing its ways - and its laws. With a tight state budget, Clemens says it makes sense to try to flip arrests, fines and incarceration costs into jobs, tax revenue and small business growth.
"Certainly, there is money to be made in taxation and we've seen that in many states out west," he said.
An estimated 750,000 people are arrested in the U.S. each year for marijuana-related offenses. A 2010 study on the Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition, estimates the size of a legal marijuana market would be worth about $14 billion.
Republican Mike Lameyer, who ran unsuccessfully for the District 34 state senate seat, believes discussion about medical uses for marijuana will inevitably make its way to Tallahassee in the years ahead.
"All drugs can lead to a harsher, harder drug," he said. But altering the laws pertaining to recreational use? That, Lamayer says, should not be occurring in this or any state. "The recreational aspect of marijuana, I believe, has to be out of the conversation."
Florida law and federal law prohibit the use of marijuana. In this state, it has not been decriminalized and there is no legal form of medical marijuana. Some in the legislature - and in the medical field, locally - say that could be changing in the years ahead.