A series of polls from the St. Leo University Polling Institute shows Floridians deeply divided on some of the major issues that the state will face in the upcoming year. There isn't as much as a gap when it comes to legalizing marijuana.
Institute Director Frank Orlando says nearly 60% of those polled support limited legalization. That would be just enough to pass - if it gets on the ballot. About 31% oppose the measure.
He says there's a significant percentage of younger people who are in favor of legalization.
And that, he says, could have political ramifications.
"These types of amendments and ballot initiatives have been used to drive turnout," he said. "It looks like it has pretty good support - especially among younger voters. This could be a concrete issue that increases Democratic support and turnout among younger voters that could make the difference in a close election at the other statewide races.
Recently, backers of one proposed Constitutional Amendment that would legalize pot said they didn't have enough signatures to get it on the 2020 ballot. But there's another amendment that organizers are still trying to get on the ballot.
On December 19th, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court, opposing the Make It Legal Florida citizens’ initiative.
Her position: that federal illegality means that adults will not be “permitted” to “possess, use, and buy marijuana.” She called the ballot initiative misleading.
A release from her office notes that “using and possessing the drug is and will still be a crime under federal law. Federal penalties for possessing the Schedule I Controlled Substance are and will remain significant.”
On the other side, St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes thinks it’s time to take the next step to recreational use. The drug is currently legal in 11 states for recreational use, and the majority of states allow medical marijuana.
"I would be shocked if we don’t have adult use in Florida by 2024 just via the constitutional amendment," says Brandes. "I think it’s time for the Legislature to take this issue on so we’re going to be proposing legislation this year that would allow for adult use cannabis in Florida."
Brandes expects to have the bill filed by early January. He wants the Legislature to legalize marijuana so that it can be vetted thoroughly instead of passed through a constitutional amendment.