Democrat Charlie Crist, who is running to unseat incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2022 Florida governor’s race, recently announced he will push for legal recreational marijuana in Florida if elected. His stance increases the possibility of the nation’s third largest state eventually joining the ranks of legal marijuana states.
Two of the largest states already have done so. California has a system in place, while New York is finalizing its legal marijuana system. Texas and Florida remain holdouts, although medical marijuana does robust business in the Sunshine State.
In coming out in favor of legalization, Crist joined Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the other top candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, in supporting legal recreational marijuana in Florida.
Crist tied his legalization plan, called “Justice for All,” to the promotion of social justice. The War on Drugs that started in earnest in the 1970s took its highest toll on minority communities.
Crist said his program is “my promise and commitment to the people of Florida that I won’t be a governor who turns a blind eye to injustices in our communities. That’s why this plan overhauls a system that has hurt and failed our people, predominantly Black and Brown Floridians, at almost every step of the way.”
He added, “We need to finally catch up to the will of the American people with marijuana legalization.”
DeSantis Does Not Support Adult-Use Legalization
When he ran for governor, DeSantis opposed legal recreational marijuana in Florida, voicing concerns about the impact on teens in the state. Studies have since shown that legalization has not led to more teens using cannabis.
Since becoming governor, DeSantis also voiced concerns about the potency of cannabis used in the state’s medical marijuana program. Under his leadership, Florida has been one of the states to consider putting limits on THC in medical marijuana, a controversial idea that would place politicians in the role of deciding the potency of medical cannabis. However, DeSantis eventually chose not to limit THC.
In answering a question about recreational marijuana during his election campaign in 2018, DeSantis immediately tied legal cannabis to teens. He said that “I’m not somebody who thinks having recreational marijuana available for young people is something that’s good” and that it would make parenting harder. However, all states that have legalized marijuana have set 21 as the age limit for legal cannabis use.
One medical marijuana, he said he respected the will of the people who voted for medical marijuana.
What Floridians Have to Say
In a recent poll, 59 percent of Floridians said they support full legalization of marijuana, including recreational use. Only 31 percent opposed adult-use cannabis. Also, 58 percent said they want expanded access to the current medical marijuana program.
In making his announcement, Crist said the taxes generated from legal recreational marijuana in Florida could help fund drug treatment and diversion programs, as well as support the Sunshine State’s public school teachers and police officers.
He also made the argument that legalization promotes social justice. He said that “for too long, we’ve focused on incarceration when we should be focusing on rehabilitation, forgiveness and restoring lives.”
Fried, who is running in a tight race against Crist for the Democratic nomination, not only supports marijuana legalization but holds a medical marijuana card. She uses cannabis to treat a sleep disorder.