Florida’s 2021 Legislative Session Takes Up Adult-Use and Expungement Bills

Gary J Stein
Gary J Stein – Clarity PAC

2020 was a year of stagnation for cannabis laws. On the ballot initiatives, Oral Arguments were heard for two adult-use legalizations bill – Regulate Florida and Make It Legal, Florida in February. But the year ended without a Florida Supreme Court opinion to let the campaigns know if they can start collecting over 750,000 petitions to get their measure on the 2022 ballot.

And we lost the strongest champion and advocate for the third ballot initiative, Floridian For Freedom. Colby Wise was a CannaWarrior to the Nth degree, and always ready to debate the strength of his 115-word petition to vanquish the prohibition without regulation.

The lawsuit known as Florigrown v State of Florida, which could eviscerate the vertical integration mandate for MMTC’s and greatly expand the number of licenses was moved up to the Florida Supreme Court, after winning in the 2nd District and Appeals court, for an unusual two sets of Oral arguments, the last in early October 202. This case, which could set the entire medical cannabis program into a whole new era, sits in the chambers of the FL Supreme Court as well, awaiting their published opinion.
The bills that went before the legislature did not fare well. Besides a hemp program bill that passed, the rest died in committee before even being heard. The only other matter that was brought up was a 10% cap on THC, and that failed, luckily, in the senate.

But there is great hope that 2021 will be the year that progress is made, although bill movement this year would be an improvement over the pandemic-ridden purgatory that was 2020.

Here’s a run-down of what has already been filed:

SB 172 – Medical Marijuana Identification Cards for Service-disabled Veterans | (Sen. Cruz)

Prohibits the DOH from charging a fee to veterans for their Medical Card.

SB 214 Physician Certifications for the Medical Use of Marijuana | (Sen. Brandes)

Reduces the number of visits needed per year for your medical card and increases the supply limit recommendation for folks with disabilities.

HB 549 Use of Psilocybin for Mental Health Treatment | (Rep. Grieco)

Use of Psilocybin for Mental Health Treatment; Provides duties of DOH relating to use of psilocybin for mental health treatment; establishes Psilocybin Advisory Board; provides licensure requirements for psilocybin product manufacturing facilities, service centers, facilitators, & testing laboratories & permitting requirements for licensee representatives and provides descriptions of prohibitions & penalties. (Similar to Oregon statute)

SB 562, SB564 Medical Marijuana Retail Facilities | (Sen. Thurston) HB 593, HB595(Nixon)

Creating Medical Marijuana Retail Facilities; Prohibiting qualified physicians and caregivers from being employed by or having an economic interest in a medical marijuana retail facility; authorizing, rather than requiring, medical marijuana treatment centers to cultivate, process, transport, and dispense marijuana for medical use; prohibiting an individual or entity from being awarded more than one facility license; providing requirements for the transfer of ownership of a medical marijuana retail facility; prohibiting a medical marijuana retail facility from engaging in Internet sales; prohibiting medical marijuana retail facilities from being located within a specified distance from school properties, etc.

HB 2889 | Drug Free America Foundation – (Rep. Latvala)

Appropriates $105K of tax dollars to allocate to the Drug Free America Foundation (Run by the Semblers) for a project called, “Reducing the Use of Marijuana During Pregnancy and Postpartum.”

SB 468, SB470 | Expunction of Criminal History Records Relating to Certain Cannabis Offenses – (Sen. Bracy) and HB 189, HB191 – (Rep. McCurdy, Gottlieb)

Expunction of Criminal History Records Relating to Cannabis Offenses; Authorizes certain courts to order criminal justice agencies to expunge criminal history record of individual with qualified cannabis offense; authorizes petition for such expunction at any time; requires that criminal justice agency that has custody of any criminal history record ordered expunged physically destroy or obliterate record; provides for effect of expunged records.

The last three bills filed as of this writing are legislative attempts to legalize Adult-Use cannabis. Only two states, Illinois, and Vermont, so far have achieved this in the legislature. All others came from voters approving ballot measure. But this year, 19 states have bills legalizing adult use, including New Jersey, which passed a ballot initiative in November, but the governor will not approve the implementation bill into law, due to lack of penalties for minors using the product.

Adult Use Marijuana Bills

Finally, Florida has 3 separate bills to reach for adult-use legalization. They may have a hard climb to get passed. Governor DeSantis has already stated firmly that Adult-use cannabis won’t happen on his watch, which may make cannabis legalization THE issue that changes to outcome of the 2022 election. Here they are.

HB 291 | (Hinson)

This rather long bill (152 pages) is a mixture of bills recommended by the Marijuana Policy Project, Colorado’s regulatory framework and Regulate Florida. It collects sales taxes as well and excise taxes on cultivators to go into a trust fund and to be used for research and education measures, allows for cultivation for personal use, and removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances schedule.

SB664/SB666/SB668 | (Farmer)

This bill, filed by Sen. Gary Farmer is similar to the aspects of the Regulate Florida ballot measure that remains stalled in the Supreme court awaiting advisory opinion.

It forms a regulatory program similar to the regulation of alcohol and takes the program away from the Department of Health It renames the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to the Division of Alcoholic Beverages, Marijuana, and Tobacco. It gives the rulemaking process for the program to that renamed entity, including the horizontal licensing policy that would cap application fees to $5000 for each activity.

It also allows individuals to cultivate up to 6 plants total (including seedlings/ clones) and allows upto 2 1/2 ounces for for personal use.

SB710/SB712 | (Brandes), HB343/HB345(Smith) – State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Winterhaven), and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, (R-Clearwater), have filed identical separate bills that would “establish a robust and free-market regulatory approach to the governance of cultivation, processing, and retail sales of both medical and adult-use marijuana,” according to local news outlet WESH.

The highlights of the bill, which is similar to a bill filed last year, is a regulatory framework for horizontal integration and the ability to register for a seed to sale cannabis license or to get a separate license for cultivation, processing, retail, or transportation, similar to the mandates of the Florigrown case.
It also allows for taxation of cannabis, except medical sales, and has linked bills for the expungement of previous possession charges.

Along with the bills mentioned here, there are also five bills created by Suncoast NORML that are detailed in a separate article in this issue, which include Employee Protection (already filed), Patient Protection, Tourist reciprocity for medical users, Expansion of qualifying conditions and a home grow alternative that creates Designated Patient Cultivation Centers.

As mentioned earlier, 2020 was rough on everybody. But will the damage from last year motivate the capitol to get some of these new cannabis bills through the committee process, pass the two legislative houses and signed into law in 2021?

That would be one of the very few positive aspects of an awfully bad year.