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A coalition of “hundreds of statewide and community-based organizations” has formed a political action committee and will oppose "Make It Legal Florida’s" prospective November 2020 ballot measure seeking to legalize adult recreational marijuana.

Floridians Against Recreational Marijuana (FARM) filed incorporation papers with the Florida Division of Elections (DOE) and announced its intent to battle the “mega-marijuana corporate interests” behind Make It Legal Florida’s (MILF) petition-drive effort.

FARM Executive Director Brian Swensen said in the announcement that the group will focus its efforts on challenging MILF’s proposal because of big buck corporate support rather than another prospective marijuana legalization ballot measure sponsored by Sensible Florida.

“Our coalition has come together to defeat this dangerous ballot initiative, which will drive an increase in healthcare prices, increase costs on businesses and kill jobs, and increase the burden on taxpayers that will pay for the costs associated with recreational marijuana,” Swensen said. “The mega-marijuana corporate interests backing this initiative hope to transform Florida into a state like Oregon, California, and Colorado by passing this reckless recreational marijuana amendment.”

Make It Legal Florida’s (MILF) "Adult Use Of Marijuana" measure was filed with the Division of Elections on Aug. 23.

It would allow adults 21 and older to purchase cannabis for any reason from current and future state-licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers – or dispensaries – as long as it is in childproof packaging and not advertised to anyone younger than 21.

Unlike the older Sensible Florida campaign to legalize adult marijuana, MILF’s proposed amendment would require cannabis sales to occur within the state’s existing medical marijuana regulatory/dispensary system and is supported by cannabis corporations.

To get on the November 2020 ballot, both measures must garner and verify 766,200 state voter signatures and present them to the DOE by Feb. 1.

As of Friday, MILF had collected 108,420 signatures and was ramping up a statewide petition-gathering campaign financed by $2.7 million in donations, primarily from two national marijuana corporations, MedMen and Surterra Wellness.

MedMen, headquartered in Culver City, Calif., and founded in 2010, operates 92 retail sites in 12 states, including one in Florida. The publicly traded company reported $39.8 million in revenues last year.

MedMen Southeastern Director of Government Affairs Nick Hansen chairs the Tampa-based Make It Legal Florida (MILF) committee.

Atlanta-based Surterra, which operates 31 medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida – tied with Trulieve as the most among the state’s licensed medical marijuana operators – is a five-year-old company with similar “vertical operations” in Texas, Nevada and Massachusetts that generated $50 million in 2018 revenues.

The Sensible Florida proposal, sponsored by Regulate Florida, has been petitioning since 2016. It varies from MILF’s measure in that it calls for regulating marijuana “similarly to alcohol,” allowing those 21 to legally consume it and permitting people to grow their own.

As of Friday, it had secured 92,438 verified signatures to qualify for the legal and financial reviews and received $204,829 in contributions, mostly from small donors.

Swensen, a longtime Florida GOP strategist who served as deputy campaign manager for Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2018 re-election committee, state GOP committee political director and Victory Director for Gov. Rick Scott’s 2010 campaign, said FARM will pull together “hundreds of statewide and community-based organizations” to oppose to MILF’s marijuana legalization plan

“Now that the groups are aligned behind a uniform platform, we will be able to effectively make the appropriate campaign to help Florida residents understand what a mistake it would be to support this initiative,” he said. “While legalization would provide significant revenue opportunities for a select few, it would do so to the detriment of Florida as a whole.”

FARM has already received an endorsement and a pledge of assistance from the Coalition for Medical Cannabis, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit with a mission to “preserve the tremendous potential of medical cannabis.”

“The Coalition for Medical Cannabis is pleased to partner with and support efforts of Floridians to protect medical cannabis in its early stage and ensure that Florida doesn’t join the growing list of states dealing with issues of poorly conceived recreational marijuana programs,” Executive Director Bob Ellsworth said Friday. “We are pleased that Florida now has established the official lead group to oppose the efforts. They have the right group and leadership to deliver a successful outcome.”