Area lawmakers say recreational pot coming

Recreational marijuana’s legalization in Florida is inevitable and could come within three years, according to Santa Rosa County’s two members of the state House of Representatives.

“The whole movement about medical marijuana has really been about recreational use and it’s going in that direction,” said Rep. Alex Andrade, R-Gulf Breeze.

Addressing the Gulf Breeze Area Chamber of Commerce last week, the first-time lawmaker said that while recreational marijuana “isn’t something I’m going to champion,” he foresees an amendment to the state’s Constitution that will legalize pot sales in either 2020 or 2022.

“I think the vast majority of Floridians are for it,” Andrade said.

Rep. Jayer Williamson, R-Milton, agreed in an interview with this newspaper.

“I’m not for recreational marijuana and I don’t see the Legislature passing it, but if there’s organized support that’s driven by economic interests, then I think it has a very good chance to pass by constitutional amendment.”

Both Williamson and Andrade have supported legalizing medical marijuana, which was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters in 2016. Soon after that then-Gov. Rick Scott banned all smokable forms of pot.

But in March current Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill to allow smokable marijuana for medical purposes.

Andrade and Williamson view smokable medical pot’s legalization as another step toward the inevitable approval of recreational use.

“When it is going to happen, I don’t know,” said Andrade, but he sees the approval of smokable medical weed as partly a veiled effort to win public acceptance of lighting up for leisure.

Activists are pushing for pot to become available in Florida to everyone age 21 or older. A group called Regulate Florida made an unsuccessful effort to get recreational marijuana on the ballot last year and is trying again for 2020.

“State after state is now seeing that the criminalization of marijuana is more expensive and more detrimental to our society than allowing the regulation and sale of it,” attorney Michael Minardi, who is chair of Regulate Florida, told the Miami New Times earlier this month.

Cannabis has been decriminalized in 10 states and an 11th, Illinois, has passed a bill that would go into effect next January. But no Southern state has yet approved recreational pot.

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