Charlie Crist affirms pledge to legalize recreational marijuana at 4/20 panel
Charlie Crist seeks more solar energy for the Sunshine State.

Crist said tax revenue from recreational marijuana could be used to increase teacher pay and improve law enforcement training.

Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist doubled down on his pledge to legalize recreational marijuana in Florida and expunge the records of nonviolent marijuana offenders during a panel discussion centered on the plant Wednesday. 

Crist first pledged to legalize the plant for all adult Floridians in October. The panel was held on April 20, or 4/20, a date known in pop culture as the unofficial marijuana holiday. While users of the devil’s lettuce often mark the occasion by getting blazed, supporters of legalization typically use the day to raise awareness on the issue.

The panel, which took place in Tallahassee’s LeRoy Collins Downtown Library, was filled with former Leon County elected officials and student leaders from Florida State University and Florida A&M University. Almost two dozen attended to listen, mostly students from the two universities.

Crist, who is currently a sponsor of federal legislation to legalize it nationwide, said the pain relief ability of marijuana and its safety compared to opioids is one of the main reasons he supports its legalization. His sister, Margaret Crist Wood, died of cancer in 2015, before medical marijuana was legal in the state. He said he wished it would have been an option for her at the time.

“I couldn’t help but think if marijuana had already been made legalized widely, that she may have been able to benefit from that,” Crist said. “In our society, a lot of people who experience pain end up sadly getting addicted to opioids and other stronger, powerful type drugs that can be extremely detrimental and fatal.”

Crist said legalization would allow the state to regulate the recreational industry to decrease the amount of laced substances in marijuana, protecting them from dangerous outcomes.

He added that legalization could also open up millions in annual tax revenue from the multi-billion dollar industry, as seen in states that legalized recreational use. Crist said the revenue could be used to increase teacher salaries and fund increased training for the state’s law enforcement officers.

“We’re the third-largest state in America, and we are 49th in what we pay our teachers, almost dead last,” Crist said.  “We can make up a lot of ground in that area from the taxing of cannabis.”

Crist also attacked Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying his opposition to recreational marijuana, support of the 6-week abortion ban, and other issues counter his narrative that he is making Florida a “Free State”

“He is an authoritarian. He wants to tell you what to do every moment of your life. Whether it’s not to be able to have recreational marijuana, not to have the right to choose as a woman, not to use mail-in ballots, if you want to do that to vote, or have drop boxes in minority communities throughout the state of Florida,” Crist said.

One of the panelists, former Leon County Commissioner Cliff Thaell, pointed out that the application of marijuana laws nationally and statewide have disproportionately targeted Black people, and legalization and record expunging could be a positive step to correct that.

“Quite frankly, if you’re well to do, especially if you’re White, if you live in certain ZIP codes, you’re smoking marijuana, you’re doing it anyway. You might have a Scotch first, but you’re smoking marijuana and your friends are too,” Thaell said.

Thaell also argued that legalization is overwhelmingly popular. According to Pew Research, over 60% of Americans back recreational marijuana, while 91% back either recreational or medical.

Chris Baker, a FAMU student government senator and member of the university’s chapter of Omega Psi Phi, told Crist while on the panel that people being incarcerated for marijuana possession has separated families across the country, perpetuating trauma on children who grew up in fragmented homes. He said that trauma is often ignored.

“Every time somebody is taken behind bars for possession of marijuana, no matter how big or small, think about a child losing a father or parents, a mother, a brother, a sister,” Baker said. “Sometimes people look at the behavior of kids and are quick to label them criminals and future criminals. Think about the trauma that came just from little possession charges. When we talk about decriminalizing, you’re not just talking about decriminalizing marijuana, you are talking about reuniting families.”

Closing out the event, Crist said he expects Florida’s gubernatorial race to be the most-watched race in the country this election cycle, and encouraged all those in attendance to go out and vote. He said he is confident he can beat DeSantis.

“The road to the White House goes through Florida,” he said. “He has support a mile wide and an inch deep, and a little bit of pressure will make it crash down.”

Tristan Wood

Tristan Wood graduated from the University of Florida in 2021 with a degree in Journalism. A South Florida native, he has a passion for political and accountability reporting. He previously reported for Fresh Take Florida, a news service that covers the Florida Legislature and state political stories operating out of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications. You can reach Tristan at [email protected], or on Twitter @TristanDWood


  • Richard Bruce

    April 20, 2022 at 8:33 pm

    I want a $100 fine for every time I have to smell MJ smoke in the public. $50 goes to me when phone evidence and $50 goes to the local police. I’m not against one’s drug use, as long as I’m not involved. Smoke all the pot you want, but stay inside your house.

    • Brian Kelly

      April 20, 2022 at 9:41 pm

      Reply to Richard Bruce,

      How about the same fines everytime you have to smell cigarettes, booze, farts and every other scent that you personally don’t approve of? Sound fair and reasonable?


      Legalize Cannabis Nationwide, Federally Now!

  • tom palmer

    April 20, 2022 at 8:51 pm

    Despite the impression lately that Little Ceasar (aka Gov. DeSantis) can run the state by edict and force of personality by reling on the timidity of our so-called elected representatives, the law still says legalizing anything would require approval by the Florida Legislature.. Sure, there could be a state constitutional amendment to implement this, but the legislators have an uncanny habit of torpedoing any measures the voters approve if they don’t like them (the amendments and the voters).
    Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see if this issue has any legs.

    • Brian Kelly

      April 20, 2022 at 9:43 pm

      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

    April 20, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    How about the same fines everytime you have to smell cigarettes, booze, farts and every other scent that you personally don’t approve of? Sound fair and reasonable?


    Legalize Cannabis Nationwide, Federally Now!

    • Hannah Montana

      April 22, 2022 at 11:42 am

      You post that on its own and then realize that you weren’t replying to Richard Bruce’s post…so you posted it twice? Yeah, that happens when you’re on that cush. lol


      • trippyvibesonly

        April 23, 2022 at 9:38 pm

        its Kush …. K u s h not cush you uncultured swine

  • Brandon

    April 21, 2022 at 6:32 am

    Yep, Chain Gang Charlie is high if he believes he can co opt Nikki “The Lockdown Lobbyist” Fried on Pot.

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    April 21, 2022 at 7:31 am

    Look at the accident stats in states that have legalized it.

  • Claude Kirk the younger

    April 21, 2022 at 8:20 am

    Desperite and with no substance and soulless Charley. Let’s review what you have going in your favor:
    1). A less than worthless in Florida endorsement from Nancy Pelosi.
    2). The backing of the crazy old tie dye T-Shirt gray beard weed heads from the 1970’s…psssst Charley the vast majority of the remaining weed heads arent even registared to vote..
    Hey Charley heres some advice the next time you and Andrew Gillum are chillin in a Miami hotel ask him how to divert your campaign funds to your personal use and not get caught.

  • Comment

    April 21, 2022 at 10:02 am

    I agree pot should be legal. I use other states
    I get stoned
    And they should beging to tell those public information stalkers to stop stalking

  • It's Complicated

    April 21, 2022 at 4:22 pm

    Of course, no governor can legalize MJ in the state. It takes legislative action or a Constitutional Amendment. If you’d asked me a decade ago if we would have medical weed establishments popping up across the state, I would have given it a low likelihood for happening. Learned my lesson.

    Can a recreational weed Constitutional Amendment get 60% of the vote on the ballot in Florida? Hard to say.

    At the Federal level, it would help if Congress would “reschedule” weed, because its current “Schedule I” status (i.e., “no accepted medical use in the United States”) keeps independent research from taking place except in Federally controlled facilities.

    • Mary Wana

      April 24, 2022 at 10:55 am

      DE-SCHEDULE!! If booze isn’t scheduled nether should cannabis ( a plant that has never killed anyone).

  • Bob Marley

    April 22, 2022 at 11:50 am

    Big shock from the candidate being bank rolled by John Morgan, his former “law partner”. A basic search can illustrate what initiatives he’s financially supported. But then again, Morgan also endorsed Andrew Gillum, so…

  • Itold Usoh

    April 22, 2022 at 5:00 pm

    Fine with me. Not a hot button topic in my household. BUT… Should THIS be the big Democratic issue for ’22? Freid is pushing legalization too. Question: will 4/20 voters actually turn out?

  • martin

    April 23, 2022 at 7:16 am

    I will agree in basic concept about legalizing pot, I simply cannot vote for a buffoon such as Charlie. He has become a poster child for a career politician. And he has done nothing of substance since he has.
    If this is his platform, then Gov. Ron will win in a landslide.

    • Douche Diggler

      April 24, 2022 at 10:58 am

      MORon DUHsantis won last time by less than .5 percent…he’ll lose by more than that this time

Comments are closed.


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