Florida could cap legal weed’s THC strength before amendment vote

The Florida Supreme Court has not yet ruled whether a recreational marijuana amendment will appear on the 2024 ballot.
Some Florida lawmakers want to put a THC potency cap on recreational marijuana. Florida voters may be able to vote on recreational use in the 2024 election.
Some Florida lawmakers want to put a THC potency cap on recreational marijuana. Florida voters may be able to vote on recreational use in the 2024 election. [ JIM MONE | AP ]
Published Feb. 1|Updated Feb. 2

Before Florida voters have the chance to vote on whether they do or don’t want recreational marijuana, some state lawmakers are already trying to limit what could be legally sold in the state.

The proposed bill, HB 1269, would affect nonmedical use of marijuana and would take effect 30 days after the passage of an amendment allowing legal recreational use. It would cap THC potency at 30% for marijuana meant for smoking and at 60% for extracts and other marijuana products. Edibles would also be capped at 200 milligrams of THC, and individual servings could not exceed 10 milligrams.

An initial version of the bill would have capped potency at 10% for marijuana bud, but sponsor Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, amended it Thursday. The level of potency in medical cannabis products sold is typically 25-30%.

Few states that have legalized the substance have potency caps. Vermont and Connecticut cap THC potency for smoking marijuana at 30% and 60% for concentrates — but exclude vape cartridges from their limit.

Florida’s Supreme Court has not yet decided whether it will allow an amendment that would let recreational marijuana use appear on the 2024 ballot, but during oral arguments, justices cast doubt on the state’s arguments against the initiative.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who opposes legalization of marijuana, also said that he believes the court will approve the amendment’s language, according to reporting from a marijuana publication.

More than a million Floridians signed petitions to get the amendment on the ballot, which would remove criminal and civil penalties for possession, purchase and nonmedical use of marijuana by people 21 and over. The nearly $40 million push has been backed almost solely by the marijuana dispensary Trulieve, which currently operates in Florida as a medical marijuana dispenser.

On Thursday, Massullo said he did not think the bill was a preemption of voters’ rights. The bill, which passed in a 13-4 vote in its first committee stop on Thursday, has no companion legislation in the Senate.

“This gives them an opportunity to understand that if recreational marijuana passes in our state, whether the likelihood of that is high or low, that they will know that the Legislature will step in to protect the public,” Massullo said.

Some lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill, like Reps. Linda Chaney, R-St. Pete Beach, and Allison Tant, D-Tallahassee, spoke about adverse reactions people in their community have had because of marijuana dependency.

Steve Vancore, a spokesperson for the recreational-use amendment campaign Smart & Safe Florida, said the bill would “thwart the will” of voters before they can even weigh in on the amendment, and said “any arbitrary cap will raise the cost, hurt consumers and encourage growth in the illicit market.”

When talking about the importance of the state’s medical marijuana program on Thursday, Massullo said that 90% of marijuana pulled off the black market contained contaminants.

Some others who spoke to Florida legislators on Thursday said they appreciated the cap being raised to 30% for marijuana bud, but disliked that the legislators were attempting to regulate the recreational use program before voters have their say.

Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, voted against the legislation because she said she didn’t think it should be done piece by piece. Rather, she said lawmakers should take a comprehensive approach to the legal recreational program if it passes.