OPINION: Florida should legalize recreational marijuana

Many states legalized recreational marijuana on Election Day, and Florida should follow in their footsteps to decrease crime rates and boost the economy. KYM MACKINNON/UNSPLASH

Citizens voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota on Nov. 3, according to unofficial election results published by their respective secretaries of state. Florida now has no reason to not have continued its leniency on cannabis. 

Florida authorized the use of medical marijuana in March 2019. Since then, the state’s economy has benefited from the industry, which is predicted to generate $1.3 billion by 2021, according to Arcview Market Research, a marijuana market research firm. 

If recreational cannabis is made legal, Florida’s marijuana industry will boom. The agricultural industry will also benefit since Florida’s agricultural industry is the second in the nation, as of 2017, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 

Legalizing recreational marijuana would also reduce crime rates by preventing citizens from being charged with felonies for minor crimes, which can help lower the number of people incarcerated. 

Florida has struggled with lowering crime rates for quite some time. In 2019, Florida had the 14th highest imprisonment rate in the country, with 582 in prison for every 100,000 adults, according to data from 2019 gathered by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

When Washington state legalized recreational marijuana in 2013, its low-level court filings for marijuana decreased by 98%, according to Washington’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter. The Drug Policy Alliance reported that cases in Colorado for distribution, cultivation and possession fell 85% after only one year of having implemented legalized cannabis. This also occurred in Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. 

Being discovered with 20 grams of marijuana in the state of Florida is considered a felony which can result in a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Being convicted of a felony takes away those Florida residents’ right to vote, travel internationally or even gain parental rights in a custody battle. 

Marijuana is a minor drug and used often for medical purposes. No one deserves to lose their children and rights over it.

The arguments against the legalization of marijuana are easily refuted by the knowledge that cannabis users report increased well-being and relief from anxiety. A 2014 study published in the Hawaiʻi Journal of Health and Social Welfare found that half of all respondents experienced anxiety and insomnia relief.  

There are over 2 million marijuana users above the age of 21 in Florida, which is the legal smoking age in Colorado. Colorado and Florida marijuana users of age consumed the product at relatively the same rate in 2019, according to Florida’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, despite only one of those states having access to legal cannabis. 

The lack of difference between cannabis use in Florida versus Colorado shows that the legalization of marijuana will likely not alter the use of marijuana but rather will prevent users from low-level arrests and boost the economy. 

An initiative has already been signed by over half a million people to put the legalization of cannabis on the Florida 2022 midterm ballot. If the initiative makes its way to the ballot, Florida residents should vote to legalize marijuana and take a step toward improving our standard of living.