Episode 14 of The Legal Lunch Byte: The Future of Cannabis in Florida – will features guest host, Harris Sliwoski LLP partner, Aaron A. Pelley and will features Frederic Rocafort, Harris Sliwoski LLP attorney. They discuss the hot topic of Florida’s path to Cannabis legalization. The discourse will touch on: The Current Landscape.  Historic Decisions Unpacked. Beyond the Courtroom. Community Concerns. Economic Horizons. If you haven’t heard of it, The Legal Lunch Byte is the Most Exciting Legal Talk Show on the internet. Reminiscent of friendly networking lunches or the cherished brown bag sessions of yore, our weekly talk show serves up a delightful plate of legal insights and knowledge, spiced with humor and relatable banter – all in a digestible 15 minute format.

hi everyone and welcome once again to the legal lunch bite today we’re holding hosting episode 14 and I am delighted to have with me Aaron Pelley one of the newest additions to our firm so why don’t we start right there Aaron could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you’re doing yeah my name is Aaron I’ve been in uh cannabis pretty much since before legalization I used to represent the medical cannabis uh community and as all my Outlaws started to transition to become businessmen I too needed to kind of transition into that area um and then for the last uh 16 15 years I’ve been working kind of in cannabis consistently in one regards or another um mostly on the west coast um and uh but to today we’re not even talking about the West Coast we’re talking about um the big the big things that happened in Florida this year and you’ve given me permission to ask you and pretend like I’m the host so when was the last time you got to tell people about yourself red um I don’t remember so so let let me let me go ahead and and do that um I don’t know that I’ve that I’ve ever done that um on this um on this esteemed uh live stream but sure so my name is Fred Rocafort I am based in in Florida and my practice is primarily focused on intellectual property within that trademarks and and copyright but I also get involved in other practice areas at the firm a lot of our International work and anything with a with a Florida angle since um not only am I here um in the Sunshine State but I’m also I’m also licensed here um so so yeah those are I guess those are those are my my relevant credentials for today’s very humble I know that you have a ton more behind you because you’re you’ve been you are the quintessential International lawyer but it’s a that was a that we could have filled a whole half hour with the things you’ve done um but so Fred you kind of have been there in Florida on the ground since the beginning of what’s been going on with medicinal and recreational kind of what’s the what’s the landscape been like for the last you know eight 10 years with with Florida cannabis sure so um so medicinal cannabis was was legalized a few years ago um I’m a little bit Hasty right now on when exactly it was but you know right around the middle of the the the last decade I think that was that was when when when it came online and and basically the model here in Florida revolves around the MMTC’s what I said medical marijuana treatment centers um there’s um there’s certainly been a fair amount of criticism system regarding that model you know they they the there there are those who who point out that the barriers to entry are are quite high for uh for new entrance and and and certainly I guess I guess it’s fair to say that there’s there’s a certain uh corporatization of of of the landscape um here here in Florida but nonetheless you know that’s that’s been an option for for Floridians you know who who uh want access to to to medical cannabis and efforts to efforts to to to legalize adult use cannabis have been going on for for quite quite some time and it’s been a very frustrating um process not only I would say for for those who have a direct stake in um the future of cannabis in Florida but I think more generally for for those of us who who believe in In fairness and and want to see things done in in a proper way I think that the the the road to legalization has been was was unduly blocked at times in in ways that um were really at least in my view not consistent with a a proper system of governance there there was a lot of focus on um little words that were perhaps you know not not as uh not the right words you know there was there was a lot of that going on like well you know this this word could mean this could mean that and and I can I can talk a little bit about about the specifics but but basically we’re now at a point where um finally the the Supreme Court of Florida has given the green light to a a ballot initiative um they um struck down earlier attempts to to um to get these initiatives on on on the ballot finally we we we we were able to to uh we’ve been able get I mean the Floridians I mean have been able to get language um that that that passed muster by the court and will be voting um on that in in November so there was enough there was enough uh enough people at least on board to get this on the ballot in terms of an initiative and then uh it got jammed up uh by uh the attorney general and then a couple of other folks was that I I didn’t follow who the other two people were that kind of came forward I suspect they were either interested parties that didn’t want legalization or they were interested parties that were in the medical side that didn’t want the competition but uh but the the legal issues that they were it really was like hair splitting on like what the word allows means and things like that right yeah absolutely so um in terms of let’s say official opposition let’s let’s just let’s just call it that um opposition from the government side well well for anyone who tracks Florida politics it it won’t be that surprising that um our governing class is is not crazy about the prospect of of legalization um and the the Attorney General certainly um did all all she could all that her office could do to um prevent these initiatives from uh from making it onto onto the ballot the governor my own take is that he’s not perhaps as um deeply opposed to to legalization um but especially when he was still in running for the presidency I think there was a calculation that he was making in terms of his appeal to a a nationwide audience that resulted in him perhaps being a little more um vocal uh when it came to cannabis um and at least the sense that I get is that some of that opposition sort of frizzled out a bit you know once Ron DeSantis’ presidential dreams came to a halt at least, at least for now um so so there was you know it’s not hard to understand really where where that opposition comes from there was also opposition I know that one of the one of the parties that opposed the um the uh the initiative was the the Florida chamber of commerce and always struck me as strange uh in the sense that well I mean you have a a ballot initiative that could potentially do quite a bit to to to um help uh commercial activities in in Florida right bring right a lot of activity that is already taking place um into the the legal fold and and make it make it taxable make it um you know allow it to become more of a an engine when here in economic engine here here in Florida but nonetheless you know they they had their they had their um they had their opposition to it the um the way that the uh the um proposed amendment is is phrased the um medical marijuana treatment centers are going to be allowed in fact they they are the this was one of the precisely one of the issues that came up um during the the legal the legal fight even though there there is language there that envisions broadening the scope of uh entities that that can legally sell um cannabis the uh the initial beneficiaries will be the um the medical cannabis um uh players because they’re going to be able to to move into into adult use right away um and and in fact you know they they were they were um strong supporters of of the of the of the measure um but I do I do think that primarily you know my take is that the the opposition uh was primarily ideological um even even now even even the um even the uh the opinion from the court um cannot get away from this um tone and and I think as as you know I’m sure you’ve been exposed to this um more more than I have you know but I think we both have seen sometimes when you’re working on cannabis issues there’s just there’s just this somewhat annoying tone that that that that frames the conversations and I see a lot of that here even e even when for example just just to stick to that example of the um of the opinion of the court I mean it’s basically saying sure we’re going to get this on the ballot we’re to allow this to go on ballot but there’s all there’s all these little little digs there like you know this might not be the most uh prudent thing to do uh you know Floridians really need to think about this but hey you know what can we do um so so there’s there’s a lot of that you know I I think that um culturally in the state there there is a still um a certain segment um of the population that that just is viscerally uh post to um to cannabis legalization for those of us who have spent quite a bit of time in the you know out west um I used to live in Seattle it it it does seem a little strange you know it’s um it yeah it can be it can be bewildering at times but looking ahead trying to to be optimistic um we’ll we’ll have a chance to vote in November um a super majority of 60% is required which means it’s it’s going to be tight it a 50% you know or simple majority I think it’s pretty clear that it would pass 60% it’s it’s um it’s really up in the air but um but hopefully hopefully it’ll go through because I do think this is a very promising Market are they adding any issues or do you know on the voting uh of of of it whether they’re adding anything that’s beyond the so for example in in Washington one of the things they did was they said hey we’re going to legalize cannabis but hey don’t worry about you know people driving Under the Influence we’re creating a law over here in regards to that and and and a lot of guard rails that kind of came right with the initiative um we’re going to put certain limits on things did they do anything in that with with this initiative that you’re aware of or where that some of the issues that they were arguing about so with the initiative itself you know as as as we’ve discussed right I mean there was there was so much scrutiny over the language and um every every word was was was parsed you know multiple times so it’s actually relatively narrow in terms of of what it what it proposes we’ll we’ll have to see and by the way I mean it is it is going to technically speaking it’s going to amend the Constitution of the state so so obviously there’s the subject matter that is appropriate for that is is relatively limited right I mean there are things that that would probably be more more suitable for additional laws and for the the regulations that will will surely um come into play there is however even even before The Supreme Court handed its decision there there was um a bill introduced to to limit um THC content and and then it was specifically framed as a let’s say as a as a contingency in in case you know the the the the initiative was placed on the ballot and there was a positive vote the legislature know summon the legislature for once to start putting putting caps already on on what can be done um so we’ll have to see you know what happens with that um it’ll be interesting to see what kind of interplay there could be down the line where if we do have a a favorable vote on legalization right I mean I wonder if if perhaps someone might challenge that legislation saying look that that’s incompatible right I mean you have this this language enshrined in the constitution of the state now um these these limit ations you know don’t seem to make any any sense but but I’m sure you know I’m sure that we’ll see all sorts of attempts um to limit what what can be done um at the same time I I also have a feeling that once um the legalization is underway assuming that it does and we start seeing the the economic impact um I I would not be surprised if all of the sudden um our official them becomes rather rather enthusiastic uh about you know about um uh the what the future could hold and maybe maybe they just start backing off a little bit and who knows it could I mean I’m kind of getting getting far ahead of myself here but maybe it would be it might just be what um for lack of a better word red America needs uh you know hey if Florida can do it then what’s what’s holding us back right and um you know you know it’s well it’s strange to because you really when you when you’re dealing with some of these what what are really decisions and business decisions you know uh looking at New York um for example the lit all the litigation around passing that law has created you know what should be one of the biggest consumer markets outside of probably Florida and California has got to be New York and the roll out for that has been just marred with litigation that has prevented anybody from making being able to make good business decisions coupled with you know all kinds of bonus problems so yeah it is uh I it’ll be interesting to see whether uh Florida gets kind of bogged down with that or whether because you really can’t predict which states are going to turn that into a problem and which ones just kind of let it sail through without much yeah I think uh you know as as a closing thought um I think Florida will will have a choice to make and and I think it’ll have an option or it’ll have a choice between um two visions of itself right I think if I think if if they if our government decides that they’re they’re going to hold on to this sort of you know nagging you know this kind attitude towards cannabis and they just start looking for ways you know subterfuges to limit what can be done then I think yeah that maybe maybe things will will not be as uh the roll out will not be as as great as it could be but I think on the other hand if if we turn to our Public Image you know free Florida you know the the least regulated State um less you know lowest number of state employees per per citizen blah blah blah if we turn to that and say you know what cannabis has been legalized um we’re going to just stay out of it just like we would with with any other industry then it could actually I think it might actually work out um work out quite well and um you know ironically and this is I think this just would be you know quite quite the irony right but ironically cannabis could provide um the Ron DeSantis’s of the world with the perfect example of why their vision of governance and regulation is better they could say look our cannabis Market is is better than New York’s um and California and it’s because of the way we do things here in Florida you know a light touch I’ll leave it there but I think that would be I mean that would be that would be [Laughter] trippy well um Aaron thank you for for stepping in as the uh as the as the interviewer I I enjoyed I enjoyed being on this side of the uh of the equation folks um next week we’re going to have another one of our colleagues um joining us Ngosong Fonkem from our trade and Customs team is going to be uh talking to us about his practice um so be sure to join us then and Aaron thank you once again thank you have a great rest of the day