As Florida’s governor race begins to heat up, cannabis has emerged as a strong issue issue among candidates. John Morgan, the powerful Central Florida attorney who spearheaded medical marijuana legalization efforts, loudly hinted he might run for governor as a Democrat with recreational marijuana legalization as his primary campaigning issue. His candidacy was polling strongly within Florida, and other Democratic gubernatorial candidates feared he might emerge as the outsider X-factor candidate this election.
But Morgan suspended any worry this past Thanksgiving when he formally announced on Twitter he would not run for governor as a Democratic nominee. In fact, he left the Democratic party fully, citing that he couldn’t “muster enthusiasm for any of today’s politicians,” and would instead register as Independent.
Spent all of Thanksgiving with my whole family. While it’s amazing to be leading the polls for Governor without being a candidate I can’t muster the enthusiasm to run for the nomination
— John Morgan (@JohnMorganESQ) November 24, 2017
In his departure, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has emerged as the pro-cannabis Democratic nominee. Within the past month Gillum has publicly stated his support of legalizing marijuana recreationally to create lucrative tax incentives for the state.
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Just this past week Gillum retweeted a post from the “NBC Nightly News” account that showed an NBC News/WSJ poll regarding Americans’ newfound pro-cannabis legalization stance. Around 60% of Americans now support legalization, according to the poll.
Gillum sided with that majority, writing, “Legalize it. Tax it. Use the revenue to fix Florida’s public schools and move us up from 29th in the nation to #1. #FlaPol”
— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) January 24, 2018
When Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he’d rescind the Cole Memorandum—policies that dissuaded federal prosecutors from targeting states with legalized marijuana-Gillum publicly condemned Sessions.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is dangerously deluded about our nation’s drug policy. This decision is not rooted in science or justice—though that’s little surprise since he has compared marijuana to heroin. While people of every walk of life smoke marijuana, the criminal penalties for doing so are far less equal. He has made his goal crystal clear: put more young people and people of color behind bars.
At the moment, Gillum is the only major candidate advocating to legalize recreational marijuana. However, he isn’t the only pro-cannabis gubernatorial candidate in Florida. At least two others support decriminalization. Gillum’s major competition in the Democratic primary will be former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who wants to follow the will of the voters when it comes to state marijuana policies.
“This discussion is long overdue, and our first priority must be upholding the will of the people and making medical marijuana accessible to those who need it today,” Graham said in a statement released Friday. “Beyond that, 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.”
Across the aisle is the two-headed race between Republican nominees Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam. Putnam, Florida’s Agricultural Commissioner, has stated he was frustrated by the Legislature’s inability to put together medical marijuana laws. DeSantis currently has a “B” rating by cannabis reform organization NORML.