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Florida’s race for governor could hinge on cannabis legalization


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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Florida is currently in the midst of a competitive race to replace Governor Rick Scott (R), who has reached his term limit. One factor that could have a big impact on who gets elected is the legalization of cannabis, and three of the four top Democrats running for governor in the state have fully backed legalization. The other candidate has backed decriminalization.

Polls show around 60 percent of Florida residents back legalization social use cannabis, so it looks like it could happen. Karen Goldstein, executive director of NORML’s Florida office, said residents aren’t happy with how the state has handled medical cannabis and want to fully legalize cannabis.

“Patients are unhappy with the implementation of Amendment 2 and are ready to vote for a candidate who supports reform,” she told Cannabis News Box. “Regulated adult use will solve a myriad of problems for patients and non-patients alike.”

There isn’t currently an initiative to legalize cannabis in Florida, so Goldstein said there isn’t an opposition campaign yet, but you can expect there will be one when an initiative is put forward. There was a fierce opposition campaign against medical cannabis before that passed. If a Democrat wins the governor’s race, an initiative will likely arrive sooner than later.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are the Democrats who support legalization currently. Goldstein said she supports Gillum, personally, because he has been a consistent supporter of efforts to reform Florida’s cannabis laws.

Gillum has been campaigning on legalization, telling Florida voters that it would be a tremendous source of tax revenue for the state. “Legalize it. Tax it. Use the revenue to fix Florida’s public schools and move us up from 29th in the nation to #1,” he tweeted in January.

“The bottom line is that teachers today are making less than they did in 2000. We now rank 47th in America in average instructional staff salary ($48,000),” Gillum said recently. “So as governor, I’m going to inject new revenue into the state budget by legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana.”

Gillum has also stressed that young people, especially people of color, should not be sent to prison simply for possessing or smoking cannabis. We’re still months away from the actual election, but it looks like cannabis is going to play a significant role in who gets sent to the governor’s office.

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