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One Florida recreational marijuana initiative throws in the towel, another still hanging on

A large part of the failure comes down to money.

(Megan Kiefer/Department of Consumer Affairs via AP)
(Megan Kiefer/Department of Consumer Affairs via AP)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – One of two efforts to legalize recreational marijuana is no more. Now the one serious push to legalize marijuana in 2020 faces an uphill battle to get on the ballot.

Sensible Florida has suspended its effort to put the question of regulating marijuana in the same way as alcohol before voters in 2020.

A large part of the failure comes down to money.

“They’ve raised only approximately ($200,000). Not to mention they had some reservations coalescing the industry support,” said Taylor Biehl with the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida.

The 10-page amendment, which allowed home grow and a included a complete reconstruction of the state’s current marijuana business model, also faced pushback from Florida’s Attorney General, who argued it would confuse voters.

“They were kind of doomed from the onset trying to do too much,” said Biehl.

Unlike Sensible Florida, the remaining citizen initiative, Make it Legal Florida, is backed by two prominent medical marijuana companies and has been banking a million a month — $3.7 million in total.

“They've focused on spending money on mail to garner the signatures. It's costly, but it's effective and when you're working on a truncated timeline it certainly very well may prove to be a genius campaign move,” said Biehl.

Make it Legal Florida also kept the amendment simple, leaving plenty of room for the Legislature to work out the details.

House lawmakers have been holding rounds of hearings, preparing for the possibility of marijuana legalization.

There have been no discussions in the Senate yet.

When asked about the possibility of legalization, Senate President Bill Galvano said the Senate plans to focus on other marijuana issues.

“There are issues with THC and THC limits that the Senate is willing to entertain,” said Galvano.

It’s still unclear if the sensible Florida campaign intends to back Make it Legal Florida’s effort, which still needs nearly 600,000 signatures by February.

And while the state’s seed to sale marijuana business model may no longer be under threat by Sensible Florida’s constitutional amendment, there remains a case pending in the State Supreme Court that could result in the vertically integrated system being declared unconstitutional.