Marijuana legalization opponents typically offer arguments that people would expect. Yes, many of them turn out to be myths. But they’re not surprising, usually something about concerns over increased crime or too many lazy stoners.
But no one ever simply said they didn’t like the smell. That is, until now.
Asked recently about the potential of cannabis legalization in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “What I don’t like about it is if you go to some of these places that have done it, the stench when you’re out there, I mean, it smells so putrid.”
He did not detail where he was, or when. He went on to say that officials in many places where cannabis is now legal end up “regretting it.” Again, he did not add any specifics (most states continue to report raking in record amounts of cash after legalization).
He then returned to the smell thing. “I could not believe the pungent odor that you would see in some of these places,” he said. “I don’t want to see that here. I want people to be able to breathe freely.”
Importantly, he didn’t actually come out against legalization.
Despite voicing his opinion on weed odor, DeSantis did not definitely answer the question that prompted his comments – does he favor adult-use legalization in Florida?
All three of his major Democratic opponents in the upcoming governor’s election – Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried and Annette Taddeo – want Florida to join the states that have made recreational cannabis legal. DeSantis only noted that a governor cannot make recreational marijuana legal on their own, but require the vote of the state Legislature.
The Sunshine State already has legalized medical marijuana. However, it remains a misdemeanor to possess less than 20 grams of weed, punishable by up to one year in prison or probation and a $1,000 fine, according to the Orlando Sentinel. People convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana offense also get their driver’s license suspended for six months.
Law enforcement agencies across Florida arrested 11,495 people on misdemeanor offenses in 2020.
What do the people of Florida want?
Recent polls have found that Floridians, like the majority of Americans across the country, favor legalizing cannabis. A 2021 survey found that 59 percent support adult-use legalization and 76 percent support medical cannabis legalization. They also opposed lawmakers having the ability to place caps on how much THC is allowed into marijuana products. Also, 58 percent said that the state should expand access to medical marijuana.
Even if a Democrat wins the governor’s office against DeSantis, he or she still faces a Republican-controlled legislature who are unlikely to support a legalization law. Faced with the possibility of inaction by lawmakers, Florida legalization advocates have targeted 2024 as the year they plan to get a legalization measure on the statewide ballot that will allow the people themselves to decide.