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Recreational marijuana faces another 'uphill battle' this session, supporters say

'It's going to be a bit of a tough environment,' House Minority Leader Evan Jenne says
Posted at 4:07 PM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 16:43:04-05

It's cannabis week at the Florida Capitol — a chance for advocates to come to Tallahassee and push lawmakers to enact major marijuana reforms in the current legislative session.

While many were hopeful recreational use would be on the table, Democrats believe it will be another "uphill battle."

"It's going to be a bit of a tough environment," said House Minority Leader Evan Jenne, D-Hollywood, during a Monday news conference.

Jenne said, in five-plus years, the Republican majority has dragged its feet, worried about the potential health impacts of full legalization. The Democrat believed recreational use would likely take a ballot initiative, similar to medical marijuana in 2016.

Rep. Evan Jenne, speaks on marijuana legislation in Florida, Jan. 24, 2022
Rep. Evan Jenne the legalization of marijuana in Florida will take a ballot initiative.

"It came to be because voters demanded it and forced that upon the legislature," Jenne said. "I think it may come down to that again."

Unfortunately for advocates, Florida's Supreme Court struck down two recreational weed initiatives last year for misleading language.

At least one other remains, but time is running out to gather signatures for this year's ballot.

Democratic Policy Chair Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said her House colleagues would keep pushing bills in the interim.

"This is a conversation that is long overdue in Florida," Driskell said. "Polling shows that this is what the people of Florida want us to consider and find a pathway forward."

Rep. Fentrice Driskell speaks on Florida marijuana legislation, Jan. 24, 2022
State Rep. Fentrice Driskell says she will continue to push for marijuana legislation despite Republican action.

Several pieces of policy are in the mix this year. That includes a bill to decriminalize cannabis offenses, pushing treatment and fines rather than prison time.

Rep. Dotie Joseph, D-Miami, is offering HB 725. At the very least, she hoped to get a conversation started with her peers across the aisle.

"My goal is to actually preserve lives and not just pretend to," Joseph said.

Republican leaders remain resistant to legalization, including the governor's office.

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez reiterated the position earlier this month.

"We certainly don't contemplate a bill coming to our desk," she said. "So, as it relates to our perspective, we are not inclined at this moment to further that discussion."

For now, Democrats' bills seeking major change for recreational weed, including decriminalization, have yet to receive a committee hearing.