Florida rec campaign calls it quits

A four-month-old campaign in Florida to legalize recreational cannabis at the ballot next year is pulling the plug.

“Due to time constraints, it has become obvious we will not be able to collect the needed number of verifiable petitions in time to qualify for the 2016 election,” campaign manager Michael Minardi, of Regulate Florida, wrote to supporters in an email last week.

But, he added, the campaign will almost certainly be back for another shot in 2018.

“We will be doing everything we can to make the 2018 ballot. By March, we will have a new petition with minor changes,” Minardi wrote, adding that he already has some “soft commitments” from potential donors, which is a big deal given that it typically costs millions of dollars to run a successful campaign in Florida.

One of the biggest hurdles is raising enough money to pay people to gather the 683,000 signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot. The campaign will likely need at least a million signatures to have a safe buffer.

Regulate Florida’s move to give up on a 2016 measure clears the way for United for Care, the campaign that came excruciatingly close in 2014 to getting medical cannabis approved.

United for Care, backed by millionaire attorney John Morgan, is taking a second shot in 2016. There was some concern that the state would have both a recreational measure and a medical cannabis legalization proposal on the same ballot, but those fears are now moot.