Stage set for fight over recreational marijuana in Florida

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Two Florida lawmakers have filed bills that would legalize recreational marijuana.

State Reps. Michael Grieco and Carlos Smith filed bills that would allow those over 21 to purchase or possess of 2.5 ounces, and smoke it in private. 

Stores would take sales taxes and pay per-ounce excise taxes to a new department of alcohol, marijuana and tobacco.

"People are going to be doing it anyway. They have for decades, centuries, and they will continue to," said Merri Newman ,who works at Chillum CBD Dispensary in Ybor City.

Ten states currently allow recreational marijuana; Florida would become just the second, after Vermont, to legalize it through the legislative process.

"It really is an opportunity for our state to bring in revenue, for things like education, affordable housing, for infrastructure," said Smith. "It is just kind of a no-brainer."

But opponents in the Sunshine State, like Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, have said for years that full legalization is a recipe for disaster.

"It is ruining families, and killing people everyday across the United States," Judd said during a December appearance on Fox News Channel. "We stand here in denial thinking it is not a gateway drug."

Even bill sponsor Grieco admits there's little support among Republican legislative leaders. 

While Gov. Ron DeSantis backs smokeable pot for patients, he indicated last month he's still against it for recreational use.

The legislature may not be the only avenue for supporters of recreational marijuana.

Several petitions are circulating to put it on the ballot as a referendum.

A poll last fall found 49 percent of residents said it should be fully legal, with 42 percent opposed.