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Florida Governor Race Showcases ‘New Politics Of Cannabis’

Cannabis has become a key issue in the Florida primaries, particularly on the Democratic side. Perhaps the state’s current disarray with regards to its medical cannabis program might explain the preoccupation amongst voters. But Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates have practically tripped over one another trying to out-endorse recreational cannabis.

Four out of the five candidates participated in a debate last weekend. By all accounts, it was a testy affair, except when the topic of cannabis broached the stage. The candidates were asked how they would make medical marijuana more accessible to patients who have been kept waiting.

“Medical marijuana was approved by the people two years ago by the people,” Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine said. “Today people still can’t get in the state of Florida. Let me tell you the reason. It’s because the Kremlin—oh, I mean Tallahassee—doesn’t want to listen to the people of Florida.”

Perhaps more interesting was watching the candidates try and top one another on their stances on cannabis legalization.

But that’s not all. Heading into the debate, Levine and the affordable housing investor Chris King reiterated their plans regarding legalization to impress potential voters. What this represents is staggering when it comes to politics and cannabis; typically voters can only choose between candidates who support cannabis legalization and those who do not. Now, voters can actually chose the pro-cannabis candidate who has the best plan, not just the positive one.

We haven’t mentioned Gwen Graham, who was also participated in the debates. When it comes to cannabis, Graham’s been analogized as the tortoise competing against the hares in this race. She’s fully endorsed decriminalizing marijuana and fully realizing Florida’s medical marijuana program. But she hasn’t endorsed legalizing recreational cannabis like the rest of the pack.

“For me, I believe you accomplish change by incrementally approaching it and having a plan for how do you get there,” Graham told Orlando Weekly last week.

“The state of Florida has not fully implemented medical marijuana,” she continued. “I mean we need to get that fully implemented, and hav[e] people across the state of Florida having the opportunity to take advantage of medical marijuana.”

The Florida primaries will be held Aug. 28, but it’s already clear how marijuana has shaped the campaign trail. As Tom Angell of Marijuana Moment pointed out, we’re potentially witnessing “the new politics of cannabis.”



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