Marijuana legalization sparks agreement: John Morgan and Gov. Ron DeSantis slam early nationwide failures

by | Jun 20, 2024

Attorney John Morgan and Gov. Ron DeSantis both agree that early implementations of legalized recreational marijuana in states like Colorado and California have seen shortcomings, with DeSantis criticizing a proposed Florida amendment for overly stringent regulations and potential social issues, while Morgan emphasizes learning from these states’ mistakes to implement better regulations in Florida.

Attorney John Morgan, a proponent of a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Florida, expressed agreement on Wednesday with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ view that early implementations of legalized marijuana has been “a failure” in states like Colorado and California.

During a press conference on Tuesday, DeSantis criticized the amendment proposal, framing it as being overly stringent in its regulatory approach and citing negative impacts including increased public marijuana usage and related social issues. Moreover, he criticized the involvement of out-of-state companies in drafting the amendment, implying they seek to benefit financially from its passage.

DeSantis subsequently cautioned that the amendment goes beyond legalizing recreational marijuana and proposes eliminating all penalties, civil and criminal, for marijuana possession and use. The Governor went as far as claiming that everywhere that has legalized marijuana has been a “complete and utter failure.”

“If you actually read the text of what will go in the Constitution, it says you can have no penalties for possession or use, civil, criminal, anything for use or possession of marijuana,” the governor said. “Now the problem with that is the entire state will smell like marijuana if that passed … Colorado did this. It totally failed. California did it. It totally failed. Everywhere that’s done this has been a complete and utter failure.”

Upon outreach to the Executive Office of the Governor, The Capitolist was provided with a series of articles noting an increase of air pollution, increased motor vehicle deaths, and a prevalence of marijuana odor in public spaces, in support of the Governor’s claim.

In response, Morgan acknowledged the mistakes made by early adopters of recreational marijuana but emphasized that Florida can learn from inefficient implementations to facilitate better regulations. He proposed specific measures such as limiting public smoking, ensuring all marijuana is safety-tested, and avoiding excessive taxation to prevent pushing consumers back into the illegal market.

“I agree with the Governor,” Morgan told The Capitolist. “Many of the early states made mistakes, but that is no reason to oppose Amendment 3. We are smart and should use their mistakes as a chance to get it right; limit smoking in public places, make sure all marijuana is tested for safety and not over-tax the stuff and push people back into the illegal market.”

The ballot initiative, Amendment 3, backed by Smart & Safe Florida and heavily funded by cannabis retailer Trulieve, aims to permit adults aged 21 and older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products for non-medical use.

Morgan held a press conference last month to endorse Amendment 3, describing the measure as a necessary reform to address what he sees as unjust and outdated marijuana laws.

“I believe — and I know — that marijuana laws in the United States of America have been the most unjust, most unfair, most draconian laws, and so many people have been incarcerated,” he said during the press conference. “As time goes on, we all know it’s nuts.”

Known for his contributions to the 2016 medical marijuana initiative that saw its use authorized in Florida, Morgan has criticized the declared opposition by DeSantis, claiming that the resistance is predicated on corporate interests.

“Follow the money. Always follow the money. Ron DeSantis is not against this because he’s against this,” Morgan said last month. “He’s against this because the pharmaceutical industry sees marijuana as a legal challenge to their business. The liquor industry sees marijuana as a legal challenge to their business. And I can promise you this — the pharmaceutical industry sure doesn’t want that. They’d rather sell us opioids.”

The amendment has been heavily funded by Trulieve, with more than $50 million contributed as of March 31. If ratified, state economists estimate the initiative could generate between $195.6 million and $431.3 million in annual sales tax revenue. When revenue associated with new tourists drawn to the state by legalized marijuana is taken into account, state economists forecast an additional $43.6 million per year.

Morgan notably stated that he would not provide financial support to the campaign.

In response, Morgan Hill of Smart & Safe Florida stated that Florida’s existing regulated medical marijuana program provides a foundation for the transition to legalized recreational marijuana, noting Arizona’s legalization efforts as a transitionary model. Hill further emphasized the potential benefits for Florida, including increased tax revenue and reduced arrests for simple possession.

“In Florida, we have a well-established and state regulated medical marijuana program to build upon when we pass recreational adult use marijuana in November. When we look to states like Arizona, we know how successful recreational marijuana can be for the state of Florida. From generating new tax revenue to eliminating adult arrests for simple possession of marijuana, we know Amendment 3 will benefit all Floridians.”

The Republican Party of Florida took a formal stance against the legalization of recreational marijuana during the party’s Executive Board meeting in Orlando last month.


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