Cannabis is becoming more accepted in society. Statewide and federal legislation is being introduced to legalize and decriminalize marijuana. Measures to expunge records and turn a blind eye to future offenses are being introduced regularly.
But if they don’t pass during the Biden administration, what will our future president’s view on these laws be like?
Well, there’s one candidate that doesn’t want to decriminalize marijuana, and that’s Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis feels that cannabis use is bad for the workforce and productivity. He notes that it can also be dangerous if contaminated.
DeSantis Makes His Stance Not to Decriminalize Marijuana Clear at a Campaign Event
DeSantis spoke about his stance not to decriminalize marijuana at a campaign event in Florida last Thursday. A person who said they represented wounded veterans asked the governor if he would “please” decriminalize marijuana if elected president.
“I don’t think we would do that,” he said.
He then referred to Florida’s marijuana program that allows veterans access to cannabis. He called the issue “controversial because there are some people that abuse it and are using it recreationally.”
The governor spoke about his concerns with cannabis including the potency of the products that are currently on the market. He also pointed out that there are illegal products on the street that are laced with fentanyl and other drugs.
“If you do something with that, it could be goodnight right then and there. You could die just by ingesting that, so I think that that’s problematic.”
Products laced with fentanyl have been an issue addressed by experts, advocates, and law enforcement. It is believed that creating a regulated market where cannabis is tested before it’s sold to consumers could reduce contamination. DeSantis did not address this possible solution during the event.
DeSantis’s solution is to “fight the supply, put the dealers in prison for a long time- but you also got to work on demand, and you also have to work on treatment for people once they get addicted.”
The governor went on to note how marijuana hurts society saying, “I think that we have too many people using drugs in this country right now. I think it hurts our workforce readiness. I think it hurts people’s ability to prosper in life.”
He also noted people he knew in high school who “suffered” from marijuana use.
“All their activities, all their grades and everything like that- so particularly for the youth, I just think we have to be united,” he said.
He also plugged a program his wife runs that involves sending athletes to schools to speak with students about the dangers of using marijuana and other drugs.
Is DeSantis Hurting His Campaign with His Stance Not to Decriminalize Marijuana?
DeSantis has gone public about his stance against legalization, but this is the first time he’s brought it up in his presidential campaign.
Nikki Fried, former Florida Agriculture Commissioner, cannabis reform advocate, and chair for the state Democratic Party, who lost to DeSantis in the gubernatorial race, points out that polling shows Floridian voters widely support legalization and want to decriminalize marijuana.
“Over 70% of Floridians want legal cannabis and almost 100% want it decriminalized. Ron doesn’t care what the people want,” she wrote in a Twitter post.
Other Presidential Candidate’s Stance on Decriminalizing Marijuana
Other Republican 2024 presidential candidates have been asked about their stance on decriminalizing marijuana.
Former President Trump reacted with confusion when a member of the press pointed out that his proposed plan to impose the death penalty on drug traffickers would have condemned a woman he had pardoned as an example of criminal justice reform during his administration.
Former Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke at a CNN town hall event earlier this month stating that he would end the war on drugs if elected. He mentioned the need for addiction treatment. He also said he would increase enforcement for drug traffickers.
What Does Decriminalization Mean?
Many states have finalized legislation to decriminalize marijuana. In those states, people are not arrested or imprisoned for first-time possession of small amounts of weed. They may be fined for possession, similar to a traffic violation.
Decriminalization and legalization go hand in hand, but they are not the same.
Legalization means that one may possess and use the drug following the guidelines imposed by the state. Typically, legislation limits the amount of weed a person can possess.
Decriminalization means that a person possessing marijuana of any amount can be charged, but they will not face jail time or have the offense appear on a criminal record. However, a second offense will be considered a felony.
Some states that decriminalize marijuana also expunge records of people who have been previously charged with marijuana-related crimes. However, each case must be individually considered. To be granted an expungement, you must have been holding three grams of weed or less and you must not have been facing other charges. A judge must grant expungement.
Benefits of Marijuana Decriminalizing Marijuana
Many individuals have been convicted of marijuana crimes with a disproportionate number of black people being charged. They have difficulty finding housing and jobs.
Decriminalizing marijuana would introduce the possibility of removing charges from their records so they could become functioning members of society. It would limit their chances of turning to other types of illicit activity to earn income. It would be a move towards social equity.
To decriminalize marijuana through equitable means, governments must de-schedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, expunge past convictions, create social equity programs to rectify the damage to communities disproportionately affected by drug convictions, and reinvest marijuana revenue into these programs. We have a long road ahead of us, but with the right leadership in place, we may reach our goals.