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Legalizing Recreational Pot Key Issue For Florida Democrats’ Gubernatorial Candidates

| June 3, 2018

recreational marijuana florida elections

A key to victory. (Interiorrain)

Three of the state’s top Democratic candidates for governor support legalization of recreational marijuana, and the fourth backs decriminalizing pot for personal use, showing near-consensus on an issue political rainmaker John Morgan said could determine the outcome of the August primary.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine back an across-the-board legalization of pot in Florida, where voters two years ago overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, meanwhile, has endorsed a plan to decriminalize marijuana for personal use, saying she doesn’t believe people should be locked up for possessing small amounts of pot.

Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled the medical marijuana amendment, called recreational weed a make-or-break issue for Democratic candidates seeking to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

“A Democrat who doesn’t call for the full legalization of marijuana I do not believe can win the Democratic primary,” Morgan told The News Service of Florida this week.

In a Medium post on May 21, Gillum pledged to “inject new revenue into the state budget by legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana” if elected governor, predicting legalization could generate up to $1 billion in new revenue.

And legalizing pot will help undo the “over-criminalization of young people,” Gillum said during a debate between the candidates in April.

“We’ve got to end this prison-industrial complex that is being built all around a plant and a seed that, quite frankly, provides much more redemptive use than it does harmful,” he said.

Levine campaign consultant Christian Ulvert told the News Service the former Miami Beach mayor would back legislative efforts to legalize marijuana.

If the Legislature doesn’t take up the issue, Levine “wants to put the weight of the governor’s office behind a constitutional amendment and let the people decide,” Ulvert said.

As mayor, Levine supported decriminalization in 2015 when Miami Beach commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance that allowed police to issue $100 fines for people caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana. The city ordinance mirrored one passed by Miami-Dade County.

King has made legalization of pot a key element of his criminal-justice package and, like Gillum, wants to use the tax revenue to boost state coffers.

“Florida should legalize and regulate marijuana to end the practice of overcriminalization predominantly affecting communities of color and tax it to invest in programs that reverse the school-to-prison pipeline,” King said in an email.

King used the issue to jab his opponents: “Florida needs bold, progressive leadership and half-measures from conventional politicians such as ‘decriminalization’ or ‘following the will of voters’ are answers straight from the political establishment playbook.”

Graham, who has been criticized by some Democrats for being too conservative during her two-year stint in Congress, is the only candidate to stop short of endorsing flat-out legalization. Some states, counties and cities have used decriminalization as a way to allow people to get citations for possessing small amounts of pot, removing the possibility that they will be arrested on criminal charges.

Graham included decriminalization of personal possession of marijuana in a criminal-justice reform package released Thursday. She also wants to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug possession and called for a review of all mandatory- minimum sentencing laws.

“Florida should embrace the principle that no young person should go to jail or have their lives ruined over an incident of marijuana use — we can and should decriminalize,” she said in a statement last year.

But Morgan said the only way “people won’t be arrested, detained, ticketed or stopped” is the full legalization of marijuana.

“Gwen is playing a general election game assuming that she’s going to be the nominee, and that is the most dangerous game a politician can play, because it reeks of arrogance and it assumes that the Democratic Party is going to give her a pass on an issue they’re passionate about,” he said. “I would never vote for her in a million years with that position. And I think I speak for almost 100 percent of the Democratic Party. It’s an outrage.”

For Democratic primary voters, opposing flat-out legalization of marijuana is on the same scale as being against same-sex marriage, according to Morgan.

“You’re dead. You’re DOA,” said Morgan, who toyed with running for governor but has abandoned the idea in favor of pursuing a constitutional amendment that would raise the minimum wage.

Morgan is embroiled in a bitter legal fight with the Scott administration over a state law prohibiting the smoking of medical marijuana. Siding with Morgan and other plaintiffs, a Tallahassee judge last week found the smoking ban — included in a state law passed last year to implement the 2016 constitutional amendment — ran afoul of the Constitution.

The state Department of Health immediately appealed Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers’ May 25 ruling.

Morgan this week called on Scott to drop the appeal, warning it could hurt the Republican governor in his effort to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

All four Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls said they support allowing patients to smoke medical marijuana, if their doctors order it.

Where the candidates stand on recreational pot will affect the outcome of the Democratic gubernatorial primary and the Senate race, Morgan predicted, pointing out that more than 71 percent of voters supported the amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

But unlike the nearly $7 million of his own money he spent to legalize medical marijuana, Morgan said he’s not going to underwrite any attempts to make pot an issue in this year’s campaigns.

“I’m not going to unfold my wallet. I’m unfolding my wallet to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” he said, referring to a citizens’ initiative he hopes to put on the 2020 ballot. “But I am going to unfold my megaphone, and I don’t need money to do that. People listen to what I say.”

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida

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17 Responses for “Legalizing Recreational Pot Key Issue For Florida Democrats’ Gubernatorial Candidates”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Is that all they have to run on? Pathetic.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Legalizing pot for recreational use is a bad idea. Once you open THAT can of worms, you canlt them back in the can.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Just legalize it already

  4. OMG says:

    YEP It worked in the past so now lets get all the people who really don’t give two S#!+$ about the elections any other time. BUT we need the Liberal potheads to show up. So lets make it about POT again…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Why not, everyone is going to be smoking medical pot anyway. The doctors are going to write prescriptions like handing out Halloween candy just like they did for all the pain medications that have gotten out of control. The thing to remember is that this is going to be all about the tax and revenue it is going to generate if it can be sold like beer and cigarettes. There are tons of impaired people out there on the roads today and mostly the only ones who get caught are those where alcohol can be smelled or they are so stoned there is no option but to bust them. This is all a bad idea. It is going to be a deadly move and an expensive one. Why not just legalize all drugs, prostitution and anything else. Seems like in today’s times nothing is or should be off limits……this country is just spinning out of control and we are going to eventually fall!

  6. ConstantlyAmazed says:

    And if this happens what’s next Cocaine, Meth, Herion ?

  7. mark101 says:

    legalization of recreational marijuana, oh great. So we will have stoned drivers, school kids smoking pot thinking its cool, Business people getting rich off grow houses and pot stores, the stink of pot when you are walking around surf side grills, the stink of pot when you are setting on the beach. Yep wonderful. All this is is a voting poly to get weed supporters to vote. I’m all for Medical weed in your home, but not a total opening of the door for recreational marijuana. If that happens, might as well have recreational prostitution,, why not. we got drugs killing people, texting while driving killing people, people shooting people, people killing people while DUI. Hey let everything in this state go to BIG MONEY. Politicians love BIG MONEY. And we worry about the NRA. Ha ! Weed will be bigger. Just like BIG SUGAR.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Florida has enough problems without adding legal pot to the Problem bag! We need Common Sense leaders, not losers who support anything to get elected! We have too many DUIs, we do NOT need Stoned Potheads driving!

  9. Anonymous says:

    ummm, most people can’t handle driving without using their cellphone.

  10. Dave says:

    I see people trying to be funny in the comments but we have way to many young people or people in general being arrested and givin records for possessing small amounts of marijuana. And yes prostitution should be made legal! I can see these two things making major positive Impacts on our communities

  11. Vicki and Brian Nixon says:


  12. Lt Frank says:

    Young people are stupid enough now. Please don’t give them anything else to ingest to broaden that stupidity .

  13. Pogo says:

    @Time is up

    for the old guard choking and spitting in its death throws in comment sections like this. Your time has come and gone. Goodbye and good riddance.

    Speaking as an old white military veteran myself, I can’t wait for the brave young people telling the NRA, racist misfits, and all the other hateful weirdos, criminal clowns, monopolists, polluters – and the bagmen and murderers that serve and defend them – to get the hell out of the way.

    When gas is $5 a gallon and your 401K fits in a coin purse – thanks trump – you’ll be thankful even for some watery soup and a small roach and a clip to hold it.

    BTW, kids who wander in here by mistake, I don’t know if a roach is still called a roach – ask Google if you don’t get it.



    John Boehner is exactly right about the Republican Party

    Old Peckerwoods who vote Republican obviously don’t keep up with what the real Republicans who pull the strings are doing:

    That old time religion

  14. Kathy says:

    I think I have a little political crush on John Morgan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    I will only vote for one with full legalization strongly in their sights.

  15. Mm patient says:

    Cocaine meth and heroin is easier to get then antibiotics. They now call them prescription medication. You people are all so backwards it’s beyond pethitic.and the “pothead” comments show how ignorant and uneducated you actually are🤗

  16. Really says:

    Reefer madness all the wsy legalize it and lets party

  17. copperhead420 says:

    Look I an retiree off duty & the Last thing I want to listen to is other folks bs when little they know Legal Marijuana will any how soon be Legal in Florida. yes that’s right so you can cry all you want but soon when its legal in Florida you and your friends that think it should not be legal you Just been educated by the line of duty in Florida so don’t go flirting about how Florida sucks Legal marijuana is returning to recreational Marijuana in Florida this Year the line of duty will recommend Legalizing recreational Marijuana in Florida rather you want it or not so don’t get all pissed off when you see the change you poor crybabies lol

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