TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers are advancing a plan that would cap the potency of recreational marijuana, even before Floridians get a chance to vote on the legalization of weed. Supporters have said they're being proactive— as critics worry it will kneecap the will of voters.
The bills putting the limits in place continue to clear hurdles in both chambers of the legislature. The latest was a Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday, moving it a step closer to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has said he's not a fan of recreational use and is concerned about the strength of products already on the market.
It comes as the state waits to find out if the Florida Supreme Court will green-light the effort to put recreational marijuana for those 21 and older on the 2024 ballot. Florida lawmakers are crafting these rules just in case voters say yes.
“Doing nothing is not a good option because then people don’t know where to start," Republican Sen. Colleen Burton, of Lakeland, who is carrying the legislation in the upper chamber, said.
Burton believes caps on the stuff that gets you high — THC— was the "start" Florida needs for recreational weed products. If signed into law, provisions of her bill would take effect 30 days after passage of a recreational marijuana amendment. Smokable weed gets a max of 30% THC. Edibles would be no more than 200 milligrams — 10 milligrams per serving. Caps are set at 60% THC in all other recreational forms.
"We will have medical strength as well as personal use strength," Burton said. "Voters will know that will be maintained moving forward."
The idea drew praise from fellow Republicans, who are worried about the health and safety of Floridians without at least some regulation.
"There is no doubt this high potency cannabis has a real risk of psychosis for many, many people, especially young people,” Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell of Stuart said.
Multiple studies and reports have shown some connection between high-potency cannabis and the risk of psychosis or addiction. To date it's prompted only Vermont and Connecticut to approve THC limits. Critics note there’s little evidence caps are safer. That's as others urge the legislature to slow down.
"Feels like a preemptive strike to regulate a future ballot initiative," Will Clark with the Florida Libertarian Party said. "Is that really what we want to do? Gov. DeSantis says this is the free state of Florida."
Democrats in the committee agreed, voting against the bill, saying there's no need to rush.
"I would have preferred to have this bill at another time after the voters have made a decision," Democratic Sen. Rosalind Osgood of Tamarac said.
With movement in the Senate and the House, Republican lawmakers look to have at least made their decision on whether to put some early limits in place. Meanwhile, the state continues to wait for justices at the Florida Supreme Court to determine whether the initiative’s ballot language is unambiguous. If they believe it is, and approve it for the ballot, at least 60% of voters need to say yes to make it happen.