When it comes to marijuana, Governor DeSantis wants it both ways

When it comes to marijuana legalization – Governor DeSantis wants to have both his way – and convince the majority of people who support legalization to support him on his way

Ron DeSantis is hoping for a better year. 2023 started strong with positive approval ratings, a presidential campaign and Florida doing his bidding. But things got messy and by the end of the year things had taken an ugly turn. He's losing in both statewide and statewide polls, the presidential campaign has created nothing but scandal and mess, and Floridians are losing interest in him as he begs for more tax dollars to maintain his feud with Disney and others. So he once again asks for help with something popular. Gov. Desantis wants it both ways when it comes to marijuana.

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During his 2018 campaign, he opposed recreational marijuana because his high school classmates who used weed didn't do as well as he did. Sheldon Addison, the Las Vegas billionaire, was a key supporter. Adelson, along with the private prison lobby, helped fund anti-marijuana efforts across the country, including in Florida.

When he ran for governor, DeSantis befriended the marijuana lobby, whose leaders included Panhandle Congressman Matt Gaetz. Despite his dislike of marijuana and his constant blocking of recreational use, he conducted her campaign checks and registered medical marijuana. But the law DeSantis signed to launch Florida's medical marijuana industry became a source of income for donors and a nightmare for patients. DeSantis ensured that only a handful of companies could sell marijuana through a regulatory system he once likened to a “cartel.”

Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Now that he's flying around the country on private planes, his campaign can barely afford it, and Floridians are pushing for recreational cannabis. Part of his campaign speech is about standing up for the people. But when it comes to weed, what he says and does are two different things. The UNF Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) found that 67% of respondents said they would vote for a state constitutional amendment to legalize the possession and regulated sale of small amounts of marijuana for personal use by adults. Only 28% said they would vote against such a ballot measure. But he allows his attorney general to create as many obstacles as possible without having to play the villain.

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DeSantis always positions himself as the flavor of Florida because he feels like he knows best. While his comments about the messed up system in California are valid, he is dead wrong about Colorado. The state system has reduced the black market, there is a decline in youth use, and cities are not suddenly riddled with crime because of legal weed.

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In the last marijuana election, 71% of the population wanted a free and open system for medical marijuana. The governor feels they were confused. This year's election will show whether Florida voters trust DeSantis to continue governing a nanny state and allowing him to decide on marijuana and other benefits for citizens. There is little chance that he will be elected president, and the public will see whether he remembers his promise and takes a hands-off approach, as has been the case with previous administrations of both parties. But the people of Florida will experience it firsthand.

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