Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would impose potency limits on cannabis products if voters approve a constitutional amendment that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The bill, which was approved by a Senate committee on Tuesday, would cap the amount of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, in different forms of marijuana products. The bill is aimed at creating a separate regulatory framework for recreational marijuana, while preserving the existing medical marijuana program.
Why Potency Limits?
The proponents of the bill argue that potency limits are necessary to protect public health and safety, especially for young and inexperienced users who may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of high-THC cannabis products. They cite studies that suggest that high-THC cannabis may increase the risk of psychosis, addiction, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects. They also point out that the potency of cannabis products has increased significantly over the years, making it harder for consumers to dose themselves appropriately.
According to the bill, the potency limits would only apply to cannabis products intended for personal use, not medical use. The bill would set the following caps:
- 30% THC for smokable marijuana
- 60% THC for other products, such as oils, concentrates, and vape cartridges
- 15 mg of THC per serving and 200 mg of THC per package for edibles
The bill would also allow for a 15% variance in the potency of edibles, to account for possible variations in the manufacturing process.
How Likely Is Legalization?
The bill is a preemptive measure in anticipation of a possible legalization of recreational marijuana in Florida. A proposed constitutional amendment, called “Regulate Florida”, is seeking to qualify for the November 2024 ballot. The amendment would allow adults 21 and older to possess, use, and cultivate cannabis for personal use, and establish a regulated market for the production and sale of cannabis products.
The amendment needs to collect at least 891,589 valid signatures from registered voters by February 1, 2024, to be placed on the ballot. As of January 31, 2024, the amendment had collected 783,456 signatures, according to the Florida Division of Elections. The amendment also needs to be approved by the Florida Supreme Court, which is reviewing its legal validity.
If the amendment makes it to the ballot, it would need to receive at least 60% of the votes to become part of the state constitution. According to a recent poll by the University of North Florida, 59% of Florida voters support legalizing recreational marijuana, while 34% oppose it and 7% are undecided.
What Are the Reactions?
The bill has received mixed reactions from different stakeholders in the cannabis industry and advocacy groups. Some medical marijuana operators and patients oppose the bill, arguing that it is premature and unnecessary. They contend that the bill would create confusion and inconsistency in the cannabis market, and that there is no scientific basis for the proposed potency limits. They also fear that the bill could undermine the medical marijuana program, which serves over 600,000 patients in the state.
On the other hand, some cannabis activists and consumers support the bill, saying that it is a reasonable compromise that would balance the interests of public health and personal freedom. They believe that the bill would help prevent the overconsumption and misuse of cannabis products, and that it would not affect the availability and quality of medical marijuana. They also hope that the bill would increase the chances of legalization, by addressing some of the concerns of the opponents and the undecided voters.
The bill still has a long way to go before becoming law. It needs to pass the full Senate and the House, where a similar bill has been filed. It also needs to be signed by the governor, who has expressed skepticism about legalizing recreational marijuana. However, the bill signals that Florida lawmakers are preparing for a possible shift in the legal status of cannabis in the state, and that they are willing to engage in a dialogue about the best way to regulate it.