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Group Ready To Fight Recreational Pot Efforts

marijuana plants
Flickr Creative Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

With recreational marijuana advocates working to get two separate initiatives on the November 2020 ballot, opponents have formed a political committee focused on defeating the legalization efforts. 

Organizers of Floridians Against Recreational Marijuana, or FARM, issued a news release Friday announcing the formation of the political committee, aimed at combating “the mega-marijuana, out-of-state corporate interests” behind legalization.

Prominent Republican political consultant Pat Bainter, owner of the firm Data Targeting, is associated with the effort to defeat the pot proposals, according to the release.

“Our coalition has come together to defeat this dangerous ballot initiative, which will drive an increase in health care prices, increase costs on businesses and kill jobs and increase the burden on taxpayers that will pay for the costs associated with recreational marijuana,” said Brian Swensen, who will manage the anti-recreational marijuana campaign.

The committee is comprised of “a coalition of citizens, businesses, anti-drug advocates, patients --- such as veterans seeking affordable health care --- and medical community professionals,” according to the release.

The opposition comes as backers of two competing measures continue to collect money and petition signatures in attempts to gain the support necessary to make it onto the 2020 ballot.

The political committee Make It Legal Florida is seeking to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow adults 21 or older to “possess, use, purchase, display, and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and marijuana accessories for personal use for any reason.”

The committee has the backing of companies linked to two of Florida’s licensed medical marijuana operators. According to the state Division of Elections website, Make It Legal Florida had submitted 108,345 petition signatures as of Friday afternoon, easily topping a 76,632-signature threshold to trigger Florida Supreme Court review of the proposed ballot wording.

It would need to submit 766,200 signatures by a February deadline to get on next year’s ballot.

The other legalization measure, which would require the state to regulate marijuana in the same manner as alcohol, is backed by the committee Sensible Florida. The committee had submitted 92,438 valid signatures as of Friday and also is awaiting Supreme Court scrutiny of the proposed ballot wording.

Make It Legal Florida has quickly outdistanced Sensible Florida in raising money, according to finance reports.

As of Oct. 31, Sensible Florida had collected about $205,000 in cash and about $245,000 in in-kind contributions and spent just under $160,000 since the committee was formed four years ago.

Make It Legal Florida, launched in August, has brought in more than $2.7 million in cash and $114,500 in in-kind contributions, and spent more than $2.6 million, the finance reports show.

MM Enterprises USA, LLC, a company linked to Florida medical marijuana operator Med Men, has contributed nearly $1.2 million to the effort, while Surterra Holdings, Inc., which is linked to operator Parallel, has put more than $1.6 million into the committee, according to the reports.