Saying “there are times in life when doing the right thing may not be easy, but it’s morally clear,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine released a video Friday detailing his plans for legalizing recreational marijuana in Florida.
“We’ve come to one of those moments,” Levine says in the video (see below).
As mayor of Miami Beach in July of 2015, Levine led efforts in that city to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
“The current law was ruining people’s lives,” Levine says. “And it did nothing to stop an illegal drug trade that profited criminals wielding violence and guns, fueled unrest between police and minority communities who have been unfairly targeted. And left taxpayers footing the bill for the incarceration of too many non-violent offenders.”
Levine says if he’s elected governor, he will move to legalize limited amounts of recreational marijuana using a comprehensive, long-term approach. He says will do it either through the Legislature or through a constitutional amendment.
He says his plan would place tight restrictions and regulations on the growth and sale of marijuana. No one under the age of 18 would be allowed to purchase it.
Levine estimates that legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana would generate $600 million a year in new tax revenue for the state. His plan calls for spending that tax revenue in two areas — investing over $300 million annually into community health and substance abuse, and $300 million per year for additional funding for public schools.
“Morally, this is the right thing to do, as African-American Floridians are four times more likely to be arrested than whites for drug possession,” Levine says in the video. “As a result, our minority communities grow to distrust the police and their neighborhoods are over-policed, while ruining labor opportunities.”
“This is wrong,” Levine says. “It’s a wrong that must be righted.”
Levine ends the video saying he realizes there will be concern among parents and others over his call to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.
“As a father of three children, I get it,” Levine adds. “I want you to know, if approved, the legalization in Florida will become a model for the nation in regulation, benefits and common sense.”
Given that the GOP-controlled Legislature is more conservative, Levine would likely have to take the route of amending the constitution if he’s elected. Two years ago, voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, receiving more than 70 percent approval from voters. Polls have shown that voters tend to approve of the idea of allowing the use of marijuana for recreational purposes.
Levine isn’t the first Democrat running for governor to call for the legalization of marijuana. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando-area businessman Chris King have also announced they support legalization. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has said she supports decriminalizing possess of marijuana.