Donald Trump Will Decide On Marijuana Legalization As A Florida Voter, Thanks To Supreme Court Ruling - Read of Green
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Donald Trump Will Decide On Marijuana Legalization As A Florida Voter, Thanks To Supreme Court Ruling

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Source: Marijuana Moment

The Florida Supreme Court’s decision to allow a marijuana legalization initiative to appear on the state’s November ballot will likely draw unique national attention to this year’s election because of one Florida resident who will get to decide on the reform: former President Donald Trump.

While both presumptive presidential nominees—Trump and incumbent President Joe Biden—can reasonably expect to be asked about the issue as they campaign in the Sunshine State, Trump will actually get to cast his vote when he fills out his ballot. And how he navigates the issue in the run-up to Election Day could ultimately influence the outcome, depending on whether he sends a message of support or opposition to his diehard base.

The former president has a mixed record on marijuana policy, though his rhetoric has become increasingly anti-drug, infused with stigmatizing statements about cannabis consumers. That said, he’s been generally consistent in his support for states’ rights to set their own marijuana laws.

“I believe it has always been his position that the states should decide,” Roger Stone, a Republican consultant and longtime ally of Trump, told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday.

However, he added: “I don’t know that he personally would vote for this.”

Trump has made clear that he understands the political draw of cannabis reform, regardless of his personal views. He said last year that “from a voting standpoint, it’s a pretty popular thing.” But he also said marijuana use does “significant damage,” and it’s “not helping people.”

Ahead of the 2020 election, he urged Republicans not to place marijuana legalization initiatives on state ballots out of concern that it could increase Democratic turnout in elections.

While it’s true that cannabis legalization is more popular among Democratic voters, polls continue to show that sizable majorities of Republicans and independents also back the reform.

Whether the popularity of cannabis factors into Trump’s calculus is yet to be seen. But putting legalization on the ballot in the critical swing state of Florida significantly increases the chances that the presumptive GOP nominee will be pressured to go on record on the issue.

“The Supreme Court of Florida not only put cannabis policy on the state ballot, but on the federal ballot as well,” Don Murphy, a GOP lobbyist with The American Cannabis Collective, told Marijuana Moment. “There will be no dodging an end to prohibition in 2024. Both Biden and Trump should expect cannabis questions from beat reporters and debate moderators.”

“As a Florida voter, Trump will have a binary choice on Amendment 3,” he said. “If Trump votes YES and makes his support public, it’s game over, both for Amendment 3 and for the White House.”

Murphy added that, if the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) moves marijuana to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), as it’s been advised to do by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “Biden will still have failed to deliver on his campaign promises in the eyes of many cannabis advocates.”

“Consumers will still go to jail for simple possession, but not in Florida. Florida’s Amendment 3 trumps Biden’s Schedule 3,” he said. “In the half dozen battleground states that will decide who wins the White House, cannabis policy reform is a winner. The candidate who delivers more than just rhetoric will be its next occupant.”

So far this election cycle, Trump has declined to embrace cannabis reform. Last November, a spokesperson for his campaign did recommend that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) take an edible to destress from his since-suspended presidential campaign, though.

Last year, Trump defended his extreme position that drug traffickers should be quickly convicted and executed, touting countries like China and Singapore for enforcing the lethal penalty against drug offenders. He argued that capital punishment “is the only way you’re going to stop” addiction.

The comments served as another example of the enigmatic drug policy worldview of the former president, who at one point more than 30 years ago said that the country needs to “legalize drugs” to win the war on drugs but is now campaigning on an aggressive drug warrior platform.

Trump has previously seemed to bask in the headlines about his criminal justice reform actions—namely clemency he granted to people during his time in the White House—but at the same time seeks to appeal to voters as a tough-on-crime candidate.

And while he’s voiced support for medical cannabis and the right of states to set their own marijuana policies, he also attempted to link mass shootings to “genetically modified” marijuana last year. And his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, rescinded Obama-era guidance directing federal prosecutors to generally not interfere with state cannabis laws.

Marijuana Moment reached out to the Trump campaign for comment about the Florida cannabis initiative, but a representative wasn’t immediately available.

Activists in the state are now gearing up to raise awareness about the legalization initiative. In order to pass at the ballot in November, it will need at least 60 percent of the vote—a steep threshold.

State Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), whose legal challenges to the cannabis measure and a separate abortion rights initiative that the court rejected on Monday, said the decision “outlines the difficulties and divisiveness of allowing vague and misleading initiatives on the ballot.”

“We have argued from the beginning that these two new constitutional initiatives will mislead voters,” she said. “We maintain that it will be an uphill battle to educate them. However, we respect the court’s decisions.”

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