Governor candidate Crist calls for full marijuana legalization

FILE - In this May 4, 2021, file photo Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, gestures during a campaign rally as he announces his run for Florida governor in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File) (Chris O'Meara, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a candidate for governor of Florida, said Thursday he supports full marijuana legalization in the state and wants to expunge all existing charges and sentences for misdemeanor and third-degree felony marijuana possession.

Crist also said he wants tax revenue collected from marijuana sales to support drug treatment and diversion programs, as well as funding support for Florida’s public school teachers and police officers. Crist said he wants Floridians to be able to grow their own marijuana, up to six plants.

The plan is part of his Justice for All platform, which he says is aimed at rebuilding and reforming Florida’s criminal justice system and righting the wrongs that have historically and disproportionately impacted Floridians of color.

“Our ‘Justice for All’ plan 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,” Crist said. “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. We need to finally catch up to the will of the American people with marijuana legalization.”

A poll from March showed 59% of Floridians support the full legalization of marijuana for adult use and only 31% expressed opposition.

Fellow Democrat Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner who is a proponent of marijuana legalization and who is also running for governor, called into question Crist’s past stance on marijuana.

“Today, former Republican Governor and now Democratic candidate Charlie Crist released a plan to reform marijuana sentencing laws in Florida. The problem? Crist, as governor, was responsible for the implementation of many of those laws in the first place,” Fried said in a statement. “The last time he was governor, he rejected pressure from Republican colleagues to reform Florida’s harsh cannabis sentencing laws, saying ‘I feel that our laws are good in Florida. They were thoughtfully put in place... I don’t want to sacrifice public safety.’”

The Florida Supreme Court rejected two separate proposals to put adult-use legalization of marijuana on the 2022 ballot earlier this year. Some think any effort to legalize may have to wait until 2024, but according to Bay News 9, cannabis advocates have filed a petition in an effort to get a constitutional amendment back on the ballot next year. The group now needs to collect nearly 1 million valid signatures by next February to make the ballot, according to Bay News.

If it does end up on the ballot, at least 60% of voters would have to approve it for it to be enacted.

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