Charlie Crist vows to legalize cannabis as Governor
Charlie Crist says the Special Session isn't so special. Image via Jason Delgado.

Tax revenue from legal cannabis would fund community investment projects under the plan.

Charlie Crist vowed Thursday to legalize recreational cannabis and expunge cannabis convictions as part of his gubernatorial campaign’s criminal justice reform plan.

The ‘Justice for All’ plan would create a yet-to-be-determined tax rate for recreational cannabis. The proceeds, Crist said, would fund community investments — among other things — including police training, drug treatment programs and pay increases for teachers and law enforcement.

The plan, which Crist is unveiling incrementally, also calls for the expungement of all existing charges and sentences related to misdemeanor and third-degree felony cannabis possession.

A congressman and former Republican Governor of Florida, Crist announced the plan near the steps of the Florida Historical Capitol alongside a handful of Democratic lawmakers.

“We need to finally catch up to the will of the American people with marijuana legalization,” said the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. “Florida cannot continue to stick its head in the sand when it comes to building a better future for our children and neighbors and dismantling the systems and sentencing laws that dehumanize our neighbors.”

Crist’s criminal justice reform plan contrasts the tough-on-crime approach he implemented as a younger politician. He garnered the nickname “Chain Gang Charlie” in the 1990s for his support of chain gangs amid a wave of high crime in Florida.

When asked about the change in tactics, Crist suggested his approach to crime has since evolved.

“Different times require different solutions,” Crist said. “In the mid ’90s, Florida was number one in violent crime in America.”

Crist plans to unveil the rest of the ‘Justice for All’ plan throughout in a statewide tour. Thus far, his priorities include the restoration of voting rights to felons — regardless of whether they owe fines — and a reformation of the state’s clemency process. He is also calling for the expansion of wrongful conviction reviews.

Universal background checks and magazine capacity restrictions are among other proposals within the plan.

“These simple common-sense changes can go a long way to reforming our broken system and creating a better future for Florida and all of our fellow Floridians,” Crist said.

The statewide tour comes as Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried compete for the party’s nomination to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis. Fried serves as Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat.

The pair share several commonalities, including the condemnation of DeSantis’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking to reporters after the announcement, Crist chided the Republican Governor and suggested the tide is turning against him.

“We’re going to beat the guy,” Crist said. “He’s gonna go down. People do not like what he’s doing.”

They also share distinct differences. Fried blasted Crist after the unveil, pointing to Crist as the source of the tough-on-crime laws in Florida.

She urged voters to try “something new” and portrayed herself as among the “new generation of leaders.”

“Imitation is flattery, but records are records,” Fried wrote on social media. “People went to jail because Republicans like Charlie Crist supported and enforced racist crime bills. Glad he’s changed his mind, but none of those people get those years back.”

Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson and Reps. Tracie Davis, Michael Gottlieb, Dianne Hart, Yvonne Hinson, and Travaris McCurdy joined Crist at the announcement.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


  • Ron Ogden

    October 14, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    “. . .better future for Florida and all of our fellow Floridians,” Crist said.”
    Sorry, I’m neither a doper, nor a felon, to a pot marketer (as Fried is), nor someone who thinks intoxication is mind-expanding, nor an addict to anything except maybe chocolate ice cream; nor am I immune from worrying about whether the a-h– coming up behind me in a Ford 250 dually on US 19 is high on anything, or maybe so preoccupied with lighting up that he doesn’t see me doing 55 ahead of him. I smoked marijuana twice in my life and don’t feel as if I need to smoke anymore. But, oh, I want to use tobacco and I am shamed, and insulted and barred from doing so. So tell me, Mr. Chainy, how does your bill benefit this “fellow Floridian?” This Democrat primary is coming down to the horse versus the cow and they are both full of s—.

    • Joe S.

      October 15, 2021 at 8:56 am

      I have the same problem with drunks — maybe DeSantis should come out with a mandate to outlaw booze.

      • Ron Ogden

        October 15, 2021 at 2:59 pm

        Considering the number of people, including public servants in law enforcement roles, who have died at the hands of drunk drivers this past year, you may well be right.

    • Brian Kelly

      October 17, 2021 at 7:25 pm

      Cannabis is not “dope”. By calling it that, you only make it that much easier for everyone to see your ignorance, along with the anger and resentment you hold towards this natural plant and it’s consumers.

      If anything, you can say that booze is the real “dope” because it makes people do the dumbest things, often become violent, and then blackout and not remember all the havoc caused by the booze, like true “dopes”

      Go ask your local street drug dealer for some “dope”.

      You’re not going to get marijuana, guaranteed!

      • Brian Kelly

        October 17, 2021 at 7:26 pm

        Cannabis consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

        Plain and simple!

        Legalize Nationwide!

        It’s time for us, the majority of The People to take back control of our national cannabis policy. By voting OUT of office any and all politicians who very publicly and vocally admit to having an anti-cannabis, prohibitionist agenda! Time to vote’em all OUT of office. Period. Plain and simple.

        Politicians who continue to demonize Cannabis, Corrupt Law Enforcement Officials who prefer to ruin peoples lives over Cannabis possession rather than solve real crimes who fund their departments toys and salaries with monies acquired through cannabis home raids, seizures and forfeitures, and so-called “Addiction Specialists” who make their income off of the judicial misfortunes of our citizens who choose cannabis, – Your actions go against The Will of The People and Your Days In Office Are Numbered! Find new careers before you don’t have one.

        The People have spoken! Get on-board with Cannabis Legalization Nationwide, or be left behind and find new careers. Your choice.

        • Brian Kelly

          October 17, 2021 at 7:27 pm

          The “War on Cannabis” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

          Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our yearly tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Cannabis”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer.

          The Prohibition of Cannabis has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records. Especially, if they happen to be of the “wrong” skin color or they happen to be from the “wrong” neighborhood. Which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

          Cannabis is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

          Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

          The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less cannabis “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

          Cannabis Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

          Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Cannabis Legalization Initiative!

  • Tom Palmer

    October 14, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    Uh, wouldn’t that require action by the Florida Legislature? I’m all for ending Pothibition, but there are political realities that Crist needs to acknowledge

  • Matthew Lusk

    October 14, 2021 at 10:13 pm

    My crystal ball was correct, Crist now shouts Marijuana, Marijuana, Marijuana. It’s the only issue that can get him in range of Nikki. However Nikki is way to quick and witty for him. Crist may as well join sleepy Joe in the basement.

  • Tom

    October 15, 2021 at 7:20 am

    Flip flop crispy critters.
    LMAO. Handstands.

  • Harold Finch

    October 15, 2021 at 8:05 am

    Dumb move, will lose him votes, but not mine, DeSantis actually needs a toke!!! Might help his Jackass dictator mentality.

  • zhombre

    October 15, 2021 at 8:24 am


Comments are closed.


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