Charlie Crist vows to push for legalizing weed: ‘Countless Floridians have had their lives ruined’

By: - October 14, 2021 5:26 pm

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist unveils a plan to legalize marijuana at a news conference in Tallahassee on October 14, 2021. Credit: Issac Morgan

In his campaign for governor of Florida in 2022, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on Thursday vowed to support  legalizing recreational pot and expunging existing criminal charges for marijuana possession.

“Let me be clear, if I am elected governor, I will legalize marijuana in the Sunshine State,” Crist said at the Florida Capitol Thursday.

A former Republican governor in Florida, and now a Democrat in Congress, Crist has been traversing the state to promote various initiatives, including expansion of marijuana laws.

Following voter approval of a Constitutional Amendment in 2016, the state allows residents to use cannabis — but only for medicinal purposes.

Fully legalizing weed is likely to be tough. In both April and June, the Florida Supreme Court blocked  efforts to put recreational marijuana on the 2022 ballot.

At the time, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, also a candidate for the 2022 Democratic nomination for governor and a leading advocate for liberalized marijuana law, decried the ruling on her Twitter feed.

At a press conference in the state capital, Crist argued that the criminalization of marijuana has negatively impacted Floridians, therefore, he will push for “expungement of all existing charges and sentences for misdemeanors and third-degree felonies for marijuana possession.”

He added: “Our state cannot continue to stick its head in the sand when it comes to legalization. Our marijuana laws in America are inconsistent and inhumane. Countless Floridians have had their lives ruined and futures destroyed.”

Crist also voiced support for residents being able to legally grow their own marijuana plants, saying that he believes adults should be allowed to grow up to six plants. “Because I believe that if you can brew your own beer, you can grow your own weed,” he said.

The revenue from marijuana legalization, Crist said, would also be used for drug treatment programs, diversion programs, support for law enforcement agencies and to increase teacher salaries at public schools.

“I believe in reinvesting in our communities, not jailing our residents,” he said. “Legalizing marijuana will allow our police to focus on actual real crime. I will use much of the tax revenue we collect from marijuana to increase funding and training for police departments.”

Crist was joined by several state lawmakers from the Democratic Party who endorsed his “Justice for All” plan that also involves criminal justice reform, tackling gun violence, juvenile justice reform and other initiatives. He said he officially announced the plan Monday in Tampa.

“For too long, Florida’s justice system has disproportionately hurt and impacted Black Floridians and communities of color,” he said. “For too long, we’ve focused on incarceration when we should be focusing on rehabilitation, forgiveness and restoring lives.”

As previously reported by the Florida Phoenix, civil rights activist Desmond Meade recently had his own civil rights restored, except to own, possess, or use firearms.

Meade, who led efforts to restore civil rights to felons in Florida, had been denied a pardon by DeSantis several times. He was also instrumental in pushing Amendment 4 in 2018, which voters approved to restore civil rights to former felons upon completion of sentences and court payments.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.