Democratic lawmakers call for recreational marijuana legalization

medical marijuana
'We are not arresting kingpins here.'

Democratic lawmakers want to legalize marijuana, and they’re urging Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature to do it now.

Thus far, Democrats have proposed at least 10 marijuana-related bills in the 2022 Legislative Session. At least one measure would outright legalize marijuana (HB 467), while another would decriminalize the drug and other addictive substances.

All will face an uphill battle in Tallahassee.

“A bill legalizing marijuana has never been heard in the Florida House,” Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson said at a Thursday news conference. “That needs to change this year. States are legalizing cannabis all over the nation, and Florida is falling behind.”

States including New York, Virginia and New Mexico legalized recreational marijuana in 2021 via voter initiatives. Meanwhile, three states — Arizona, Montana and New Jersey — OK’d recreational marijuana use in 2020 via legislation.

A 2019 bipartisan poll by the University of North Florida shows 64% of Florida voters support legalizing marijuana for adult consumption.

“The Florida Legislature has issues with regard to listening to the will of the people,” said Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Windermere.

Hinson and Thompson stood alongside several Democratic lawmakers and activists at a news conference Thursday, making their case for the legalization of marijuana.

Together, they argued the prohibition is harming Floridians, particularly minorities. In 2018, 42,000 people were arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession; more than half were Black, Hinson said.

“We are not arresting kingpins here,” she said. “We’re arresting small-scale users and ruining their lives.”

Democratic Rep. Dotie Joseph, meanwhile, argued decriminalization would free up state resources and alleviate overcrowding in state prisons.

Under her proposal (HB 725), all “addictive drugs” would be decriminalized. Instead of jail time, a person possessing an addicting drug — including marijuana — would face a noncriminal $50 fine.

The bill, additionally, would compel the Florida Department of Health to study effective drug treatment methods and grant clemency to those incarcerated for marijuana possession.

“This bill mitigates the impact of the war on drugs, where addicts are basically thrown away and locked up,” Joseph said.

All attendees, including Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani, highlighted how a drug conviction could limit opportunities and burden livelihoods.

Legalization, they said, would create opportunities for reinvestment.

“There are already so many great models in states across America,” the Orlando lawmaker said. “Take this revenue and reinvest it in communities, especially in those communities who have been most dramatically negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis.”

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.


17 comments

  • PeterH

    January 13, 2022 at 2:12 pm

    Recreational use of marijuana is occurring everywhere everyday in the USA. Take a deep breath on any Florida beach and you can smell weed. Police have STOPPED arresting people for recreational use!

    Reply

    • John Thomas

      January 14, 2022 at 6:09 pm

      Only because they got confused with the legalization of hemp. As soon as they figure out a good way to tell the difference, they will be arresting for marijuana again.

      Reply

    • Dave

      January 17, 2022 at 3:36 pm

      Legalize marijuana now, quit being an oddball!
      Cash in on the sales tax, and invest on education!!

      Reply

  • Alex

    January 13, 2022 at 2:16 pm

    What about the freedoms DeFraud is always screeching about?

    Let’s see if he has any idea what they are beyond an idiotic campaign slogan.

    Reply

  • Alex

    January 13, 2022 at 2:27 pm

    Breaking;

    Leader of the oath keepers charged with seditious conspiracy for the 1/6 terrorist attack!

    Reply

    • Alex

      January 13, 2022 at 2:39 pm

      Current federal criminal code defines “seditious conspiracy” as an effort by two or more people “to conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”

      Reply

    • Impeach Biden

      January 14, 2022 at 6:15 pm

      Stay on topic Alex. There is only one Fraud and the first name would be Nikki. That is her future, a marijuana harvester in Florida. Bong parties at Nikki’s house. The one bought by her Mary Jane boyfriend.😜

      Reply

      • John Thomas

        January 16, 2022 at 5:19 pm

        Science and widespread experience have shown marijuana has no significant harms. Hence, every person who chooses near harmless marijuana over addictive, very harmful alcohol, improves their health significantly.

        Why do you demonize an industry that is so much better for America than the alcohol industry?

        Reply

  • Alex

    January 13, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    I remember Fox talking heads yakking about charging opponents of the Iraq invasion/occupation with sedition.

    Lol

    Reply

  • Don'tbelieveeverythingyouread

    January 13, 2022 at 10:33 pm

    I don’t and never will use drugs that are currently illegal.

    I also don’t think ANY of them should be illegal.
    I’m not your mommy and the government shouldn’t be either.

    If you choose to do them that’s your problem. I think it’s stupid but the country needs people to work farms and in kitchens.

    Reply

    • John Thomas

      January 14, 2022 at 5:14 pm

      Do you ever have a beer or a glass of wine?

      Reply

  • Ron Ogden

    January 14, 2022 at 5:09 am

    Why do we need more intoxicated people?

    Reply

    • John Thomas

      January 14, 2022 at 5:18 pm

      The issue really isn’t marijuana. Mankind has been consuming it for more than 3,000 years, with no problems. The issue is the fraudulently enacted prohibition.

      It was perpetrated by soon-to-be-out-of-work alcohol prohibition bureaucrat, Harry Anslinger in 1937. He desperately wanted a new empire and no lie was too big to tell to get it.

      Science and widespread experience have shown marijuana has no significant harms. Hence, every person who chooses near harmless marijuana over addictive, very harmful alcohol, improves their health significantly – as well as the lives of their family and community.

      Reply

    • Bobby Smith

      January 15, 2022 at 2:13 am

      Reply to:
      Ron Ogden: “Why do we need more intoxicated people?”

      Why does the internet need people like you posting on websites?
      See how selfish and rude it is, to tell others what to do, when what they are doing is harmless? Maybe we don’t like what you posted, but does that mean your post should be illegal and you should be arrested? Think about that.

      You are assuming people aren’t illegally using cannabis.
      Only a very tiny fraction of a percentage of people who want to consume cannabis, do not do it, because of the law prohibiting it.
      Legalizing cannabis just changes criminal users into non-criminal users.
      Being in favor of cannabis being illegal, means you are in favor of making people criminals, who would otherwise be a law-abiding citizen.
      A police officer that could be saving a life, is instead spending his time busting someone for illegally enjoying cannabis.
      It is also very selfish of you to say that it should be up to you, what other people do with their short lives here on earth.
      Didn’t hear the news about CBGA in cannabis preventing the infection of the Covid-19 virus.
      I hope you will understand that your stance against cannabis is harmful to all of humanity.

      Reply

  • Antonio

    January 15, 2022 at 2:08 pm

    This is a tricky one. On one hand, it is less harmful than alcohol. On the other hand, most places I’ve seen that have legalized it have seen a societal decline after several years of the policy. Maybe enforcing the regulations to keep its use in private homes could be an answer….

    Reply

  • just a comment

    January 16, 2022 at 2:19 pm

    IDK Reagan was war on drugs but he got into rifle trafficking 0 tolerance not sure how that became everything. war on drugs never existed it became real when the real estate started booming. I think it is a competition tactic a lot of people offend the laws period. everyone falls short with 0

    Reply

  • Chris

    January 16, 2022 at 3:18 pm

    The time has come for the Federal Government to de-schedule Marijiuana, Totally! Make it like wine!

    Reply

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