TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — About 20% of the United States has legalized the use of recreational marijuana. Across the country, 18 states have legalized the drug recreationally, while 37 have legalized it solely for medical use, with a prescription.
In the District of Columbia, medical and recreational marijuana use is allowed, but in Florida, recreationally using marijuana is still illegal. However, decriminalization of marijuana is popular enough across the U.S. that federal lawmakers are attempting to make the drug legal.
After years of back and forth, multiple members of the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed legislation federally in a joint effort to decriminalize and fully allow recreational use of pot across the U.S., but efforts in the Senate were less fired up. On April 1, the House passed a bill to decriminalize marijuana federally.
The bill, called the “Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act” would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and eliminate current criminal penalty for those who manufacture, distribute, or possess marijuana. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL1) was the only Republican co-sponsor of the bill, before the House voted to pass it.
When it came time to pass the bill and send it to the U.S. Senate, only three Republican House members voted for it, Gaetz, Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL18) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA4). The bill has not yet moved forward in the Senate.
While medical marijuana is legal in Florida, smoking for fun, recreationally, is still illegal. Efforts to legalize weed in the Sunshine State have been met with opposition from state leaders and some lawmakers. As of February, the various attempts to legalize pot in Florida had failed.
No attempts at legalization through legislative means gained high enough support to move forward in the state legislature. Ballot initiatives also failed to get enough signatures by a Feb. 1, 2022 cutoff to make it onto the November ballot and be voted on by state residents.
One ballot proposal had enough signatures to get to the judicial review step, but Florida’s highest court rejected the attempt on legal grounds over language used in its text.
In the Florida Supreme court’s opinion last year, the ballot measure’s summary was unclear about using marijuana recreationally in Florida regarding the restrictions in place under federal law.
Separately, the fight over weed rights continues on multiple fronts. State agriculture commissioner and Democratic candidate for governor Nikki Fried announced a lawsuit against the Biden administration over federal forms for firearm purchases that say whether they smoke weed, even legally. If the applicant does answer “yes,” Fried’s lawsuit says they will be denied the right to purchase a gun, violating their second amendment rights.
“Medical marijuana is legal. Guns are legal. This is all about people’s rights,” Fried said in a statement to NBC News about the lawsuit. “And I don’t care who I have to sue to fight for their freedom.”
Separately, Fried told WFLA’s political anchor Evan Donovan that, should she be elected to serve as Florida’s governor, she would work to legalize marijuana.
“What voters can know, is that when you have a Gov. Fried administration, that’s one of the first things we’re going to do, is work on legalization for here in our state and work on the federal side of things,” Fried said.
Florida’s not alone in its split on legal recreational marijuana and legal medical use. The below map shows where states stand on the legalization of marijuana based on February 2022 data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.