Friday, May 24

Examining the facts behind claims in Florida marijuana campaign ads

As we get closer to the November elections, WPTV is examining the claims made by the groups spending millions of dollars to sway your vote.

This week, a group called Smart and Safe Florida spent more than $5 million, blitzing the airwaves with four ads that make multiple claims to convince you to vote yes on Amendment 3, which would legalize and regulate recreational marijuana for adults.

Here are the claims:

1. In Florida, marijuana is already available on the streets.  

This is true.

While marijuana has been available legally with a prescription in Florida since 2017, records show theres still an illegal marijuana market in Florida. FDLE reported 2,329 convictions stemming from marijuana-related charges in 2023. And in an analysis of Amendment 3 published in July, the Florida Financial Impact Estimating Conference predicts if the measure passes, the vast majority of anticipated sales are estimated to be from black market users moving to the legal retail market.

2. Most Americans have access to legal marijuana that is regulated and tested for safety. 

This is also true.

According to Pew Research, 54% of the U.S. population lives in a state where recreational marijuana is legal and therefore, regulated. That number jumps to 74% when states that allow medical marijuana are factored in.


3. Most Florida marijuana is illegal. Its produced using toxic chemicals and can be laced with dangerous drugs like fentanyl. 

This one is harder to fully confirm since its impossible to arrest, survey or otherwise arrest every person who uses marijuana illegally.

Morgan Hill, the spokesperson for Smart and Safe Florida, pointed to the financial analysis to back this claim.

“Economists project that 1.8 million people every year are accessing marijuana on the illicit market,” Hill said. “That’s more than double the number of people in the state who currently have those medical marijuana cards.”

According to Floridas Office of Medical Marijuana use, 878,510 Floridians are authorized to purchase marijuana for medical reasons at one of the states 635 dispensaries. The data cited in the Amendment 3 analysis is based on a survey of Florida adults, who were asked to self-report using marijuana illegally. The survey was conducted in 2017, when Floridas medical marijuana program was in its earliest days.

“Some of the current illicit use may be for medical purposes, said the 2023 report referencing the 2017 study. This estimation approach has been used by other states to estimate recreational marijuana use.

Regarding the claims of toxic chemicals and fentanyl, multiple news reports have referenced marijuana laced with fentanyl. The Florida Department of Health has also raised the issue of fentanyl being detected in marijuana. WPTV has requested data from FDLE and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration regarding fentanyl-laced marijuana, but has not yet received that information.

4. The ads claim revenue from recreational marijuana will bring “billions for better schools and safer communities. 

Thats a bit of a stretch. While the ads dont say how long itll take to raise billions in revenue, itll likely take years.

The financial impact audit projects recreational marijuana could bring in between $195 million and $431 million a year in revenue.

Still, theres no guarantees how much, if any of that, will go to schools and law enforcement. That decision would be left to Florida lawmakers if the ballot measure passes.

“Education and public safety are two places that we support them using that funding,” Hill said. “Certainly, it is up to the legislature.”

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