DeSantis Says Florida Legalization Ballot Measure Would Protect Marijuana Rights More Than 1st And 2nd Amendments Protect Free Speech And Gun Rights | Turn 420
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DeSantis Says Florida Legalization Ballot Measure Would Protect Marijuana Rights More Than 1st And 2nd Amendments Protect Free Speech And Gun Rights

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is again railing against a marijuana legalization ballot initiative, arguing that it would protect the right to use cannabis more strongly than the First Amendment protects free speech or the Second Amendment protects gun rights—and again claiming that the reform has been a “failed experiment” in states such as Colorado.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, DeSantis was asked about the launch of his Florida Freedom Fund PAC, which is being used to oppose the cannabis legalization ballot measure, as well as a separate abortion rights initiative, in the lead-up to the November election.

The governor said the proposal would allow people to “do marijuana wherever you want—just smoke it, take it, and it would turn Florida into San Francisco or Chicago or some of these places.”

He then reprised one of his chief complaints about the potential impact of legalization: Smelling cannabis.

“We’ve got to keep our streets clean. We cannot have every town smelling like marijuana. We cannot have every hotel smelling—theme parks,” he said, adding that voters don’t really understand the specifics of the legalization proposal and that ballot initiatives are generally “so bogus.”

DeSantis acknowledged that the state Supreme Court has a role in reviewing ballot language for constitutionality, and that a majority of justices determined that the marijuana measure met the legal standard. But while he previously correctly predicted the court would approve the initiative following a challenge from state Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), he now says the two dissenting justices were “correct” in trying to block voters from deciding on the measure.

He also claimed that the measure as drafted would allow people to smoke marijuana indoors at restaurants. The Smart & Safe Florida campaign has pushed back against his prior arguments about public consumption, noting that the legislature is empowered to set restrictions as they see fit.

DeSantis also claimed earlier this month that that if voters approve the marijuana legalization initiative, people “will be able to bring 20 joints to an elementary school”—and he again complained about the prevalent odor of cannabis that he says would result from the reform.

“Now the amendment does not say you can do that, so I think that’s an open question,” the governor said on Tuesday. “But even if somehow that were right, once it’s constitutional, law enforcement is not going to want to get involved. And so you’re going to end up—it’s going to be like Colorado. Talk to the people of Colorado about what happened.”

“There’s no limitations in the amendment language,” he said. “And so I think what will happen is—it’s more broad, this amendment, for you to be able to possess and smoke pot than the First Amendment is, than the Second Amendment is, than like core amendments that grew out of the founding of this country.”

DeSantis also said legalization has “not worked in any single place,” and he challenged a recent ad from the campaign that promoted regulating cannabis as an alternative to the status quo of people using untested cannabis from illicit sellers.

When Colorado and California enacted legalization, “it created a bigger black market. The drug cartels benefited from that,” he said. “It was a failed experiment.”

The governor has repeatedly pointed to Colorado’s experience with legalization, making questionable claims about the impact of the reform, as an example of why Florida should not follow suit.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) pushed back against that criticism following similar remarks from DeSantis in January, with his office telling Marijuana Moment that the state of Colorado is “happy” to explain the advantages of marijuana legalization.

“The facts are that Colorado voters approved the legalization of marijuana which is curbing the illicit market, getting dealers off the streets, reducing youth use, funding school construction, supporting jobs and Colorado’s economy,” the governor’s spokesperson said at the time. “Colorado is happy to provide the Florida governor advice on how to increase economic and personal freedom like we have in the free state of Colorado.”

Meanwhile, according to a Fox News poll released this month, two in three Florida voters support the cannabis initiative—with the issue proving more popular than the governor himself. The survey showed majority support for legalization across the political spectrum, too.

Despite his opposition to the marijuana legalization, DeSantis recently vetoed a bill to ban the sale of intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids in his state. The action came amid reporting that the governor planned to block the hemp prohibition legislation in hopes that the industry would return the favor by financially assisting in his effort to defeat the marijuana initiative.

The governor has consistently argued that the state shouldn’t go beyond the existing medical cannabis program and that broader reform would negatively impact the quality of life for Floridians. The Florida Republican Party also formally came out against Amendment 3 last month.

Smart & Safe Florida separately announced in March that it was working to form a coalition of veterans to build voter support for the reform, and the campaign has since formally launched that initiative.

Here’s what the Smart & Safe Florida marijuana legalization initiative would accomplish:

  • Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis for personal use. The cap for marijuana concentrates would be five grams.
  • Medical cannabis dispensaries could “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute marijuana products and marijuana accessories to adults for personal use.”
  • The legislature would be authorized—but not required—to approve additional entities that are not currently licensed cannabis dispensaries.
  • The initiative specifies that nothing in the proposal prevents the legislature from “enacting laws that are consistent with this amendment.”
  • The amendment further clarifies that nothing about the proposal “changes federal law,” which seems to be an effort to avoid past legal challenges about misleading ballot language.
  • There are no provisions for home cultivation, expungement of prior records or social equity.
  • The measure would take effect six months following approval by voters.

Here’s the full text of the ballot title and summary:

“Allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise; allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories. Applies to Florida law; does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law. Establishes possession limits for personal use. Allows consistent legislation. Defines terms. Provides effective date.”

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Economic analysts from the Florida legislature and DeSantis’s office, estimate that the marijuana legalization initiative would generate between $195.6 million and $431.3 million in new sales tax revenue annually if voters enact it. Those figures could increase considerably if lawmakers opted to impose an additional excise tax on cannabis transactions that’s similar to the ones in place in other legalized states.

Unlike the governor, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) said in April that he does believe Florida voters will approve the legalization initiative.



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