Crist pushes for weed legalization and justice reform initiatives at Florida State Capitol

Politics

FILE – In this May 4, 2021, file photo Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, gestures during a campaign rally as he announces his run for Florida governor in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — U.S. Rep. and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist revealed the second half of his Justice for All policy platform today, pushing for marijuana legalization and a variety of justice system reforms for minorities. He said his Justice for All policy plan will include improved benefits for marijuana legalization and production to aid minority farmers in Florida.

The appearance in Tallahassee was part of his state tour in his campaign for election as Governor of Florida.

Promising not to be a governor that turns a blind eye to injustice, Crist said he would be a governor who corrects the imbalances of the state’s justice system.

“For too long Florida’s justice system has disproportionately hurt and impacted Black Floridians and communities of color, for too long we’ve focused on incarceration when we should be focusing on rehabilitation, forgiveness, and restoring and rebuilding lives,” Crist said.

Crist said he wants to work with other Florida lawmakers to restore the rights of returning citizens, fighting gun violence, and reforming criminal justice to “catch up to the will of the American people.”

He promised to fully legalize marijuana as governor, if elected, and expunge marijuana charges and sentences in misdemeanors and third-degree felonies.

“Let me be clear, if I’m elected governor, I will legalize marijuana in the Sunshine State,” Crist said. “I will also fully support allowing adults to legally grow their own marijuana, up to six plants. Because I believe that if you can brew your own beer you can grow your own weed.”

Crist, a former Republican Education Commissioner, State Senator, Attorney General and Governor of Florida is no stranger to politics. After the reelection of Barack Obama in 2012, Crist ran as an Independent, then switched to the Democratic Party. In 2016, he was elected to serve as the U.S. Representative for District 13, which includes St. Petersburg.

Crist said marijuana laws in the U.S. are inconsistent and inhumane, and that “countless Floridians have had their lives ruined and futures destroyed and this is an abomination.” He promised as governor, he would move immediately to legalize recreational marijuana and immediately to expunge all those arrested and jailed for marijuana charges. Legalization would also allow law enforcement agencies to reprioritize their focus on “actual, real crime.”

Under Crist as governor, the candidate said he would use the funds earned by taxing marijuana to better train and fund police departments, equating defunding the police to banning 911, which he said was “ridiculous,” but did say that police need better training and better pay, which would attract better candidates.

Crist promised to use funding generated from marijuana revenue would also be used to fund drug treatment and diversion programs, as well as to increase salaries of public school teachers and reinvest in communities, “not jailing our residents.”

For Crist, the disparity between minorities and white residents is a major issue and an injustice. He said that Black Floridians and other people of color are four times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than “their white counterparts at the national level,” showing a “crystal clear” racial problem surrounding marijuana legalization.

“These injustices come at the cost of people’s lives, and today we say ‘no more,'” Crist said. He also said that he would “dismantle” the practices that have kept small businesses and minority farmers out of the medical marijuana industry.

“Right now, our small and minority-owned medical marijuana businesses are not being given a seat at the table,” Crist said. “It is unfair, and it is wrong, and it must stop.”

Crist said the current rules limit competition and leave no room for small businesses, nor have “modest efforts” for Black farmers to enter the medical marijuana business been successful, harming Black farmers with limited resources and “creating a handful of powerful marijuana cartels.”

To invest in rebuilding communities, Crist said his Justice for All policies will “reimagine our criminal justice system” into one that “does right by our fellow Floridians,” and features sentencing reforms on minimum sentencing laws and allows prisoners to earn rehabilitation credit for completing high school equivalency diplomas, drug and mental health treatment programs, expand conviction review units and remedy such wrongful convictions and complete vocation certifications and training.

Crist said the state needs better data collection to “root out racial disparities that are occurring under our watch.” He called these simple, common-sense changes that would improve the state of Florida, and also called for improvements and reforms to the juvenile justice system.

“Our ‘Justice for All’ plan is my promise and commitment to the people of Florida that I won’t be a Governor who turns a blind eye to injustices in our communities,” said Crist in a prepared statement. “ That’s why this plan overhauls a system that has hurt and failed our people, predominantly Black and Brown Floridians, at almost every step of the way.”

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