andrew gillum marijuana

Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and the politics of pot

And a review of the pollsters

Nathan Archer (Photo: Tallahassee’s hometown candidates for governor, Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum)

The intriguing follow up to one of the 25 big questions facing Florida politics heading into summer – they’re all here – is when will the Gwen Graham campaign take to the air with advertising?

Polls make for fun discussions. Cliché alert – but you know the only one that really matters is three months away. And when you have one in your hands you may also want to consult this FiveThirtyEight review of surveys.

The public is largely undecided about who should be the next governor and the four Democrats have $12 million to spend to shape the race’s outcome.

One issue the candidates split on is pot.

Two favor decriminalization and two call for legalization.

They have agreed to four debates, starting with a June 9 event in St. Petersburg.

But the public debate about the candidates won’t begin until Graham starts spending some of the $4 million she’s stockpiled and engage the campaigns of Philip Levine, Chris King and Andrew Gillum on television.

The surveys indicate about half of Democratic voters are undecided. Levine leads in the latest poll, followed by Graham, Gillum and King.

And the man who led the effort to allow the use of medical marijuana in Florida thinks Levine and Graham are making a political miscalculation when it comes to marijuana.

They favor decriminalization.

John Morgan is battling the state in court over a ban on smokable cannabis. He bankrolled the campaign for a constitutional initiative to allow patients to use marijuana as medicine.

He said voters approval included smoking the plant. A lower court judge agreed with Morgan and the suit is now tied up in appeals.

In a conference call with reporters this week he predicted Florida is on the cusp of marijuana legalization and Levine and Graham have copped out on the issue.

Gillum and King call for legalization as part of an effort to reform the criminal justice system.

“I’ll say this to Phil Levine and Gwen Graham . . . decriminalizing is a copout because decriminalizing is not legalizing,” said Morgan, adding that the public doesn’t care about marijuana laws.

“Decriminalization just means okay, you don’t have to serve any time. You still been arrested. It’s still on your record. And you still went to jail. And you know who the people are whose lives are ruined as a result? Poor people. Young people, minorities, that’s who gets arrested,” said Morgan.

Graham said she agrees Morgan has a point – lives shouldn’t be ruined because of pot.

“This discussion is long overdue and our first priority must be upholding the will of the people and making medical marijuana accessible to those who need it today,” said Graham. “Beyond that, Florida should embrace the principle that no young person should go to jail or have their lives ruined over an incident of marijuana use – we can should decriminalize.”

Gillum wants to go beyond that.

He includes marijuana legalization in a criminal justice plan to stop the “mass incarceration” of people for low-level charges and a pot tax to pay to increase public school teachers’ salaries.

“The bottom line is that teachers are making less than they did in 2000. We now rank 47th in America in average instructional staff salary,” said Gillum. “As governor, I’m going to inject new revenue into the state budget by legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana.”

In 2016, 71 percent of voters said marijuana was okay to use as medicine. The vote came after missed deadlines and court challenges to the Department of Health’s implementation of a 2012 Charlotte’s Web law to provide medical marijuana to children afflicted with a severe form of epilepsy and cancer patients.

King, like Gillum, includes marijuana legalization as part of a criminal justice reform plan to reduce the prison population.

While Levine echoes Graham on decriminalization, an approach Miami Beach took when he was Mayor.

“We don’t want to ruin people’s lives, careers, or their opportunities to join the armed services or go to university, so we did it in Miami Beach,” Levine said.

Surveys indicate about half of Democratic voters are undecided and we've found an issue that divides the Democratic candidates – somewhat. Pot.

Where do governor hopefuls Ron DeSantis, Andrew Gillum stand on the issues?

Floridians will witness an epic clash of conservative and liberal ideas in the race for governor with a Bernie Sanders-backed mayor battling against a Trump-endorsed congressman in a high-stakes contest that has already captured the nation’s attention.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, both 39, beat establishment candidates initially favored to win, but they offer vastly different visions on the issues.

DeSantis, a Republican, has called for curtailing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. He belongs to the hard-right Freedom Caucus. Gillum, a Democrat, champions abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, impeaching Trump and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.


DeSantis wants to mandate that employers check the immigration status of new hires through a federal system called E-Verify. He has vowed to stop so-called “sanctuary cities” that offer protections to undocumented residents.

Gillum has called for abolishing ICE and replacing it with a “more compassionate and focused agency.” In a debate, Gillum said he would support making driver’s licenses available to undocumented residents. “Illegals is not a noun,” Gillum said. “You don’t get to call people illegals.”


DeSantis says he would oppose tax increases and support an amendment to the state constitution that would require a supermajority for the Legislature to raise taxes.

Gillum wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and increase the state’s corporate tax rate from 5.5 percent to 7.75 percent.

Health care

Asked if he views health care as a right, DeSantis said during a debate in Jacksonville that “people should have the right to pursue the health care they want.” An opponent of the Affordable Care Act, he said he doesn’t think “childless, able-bodied adults” of working age should be on Medicaid. “We already have health care as the biggest line-item of the budget,” DeSantis said.

Gillum wants Medicare for all. He views health care as “a fundamental right, not a privilege.” He favors expanding Medicaid.

DeSantis has said he would have vetoed legislation passed after the Parkland massacre. He said he thinks some parts of the legislation, such as raising the age to buy a long gun from 18 to 21, would violate Floridians’ Second Amendment Rights. DeSantis earned an A rating from the National Rifle Association.

Gillum supports an “assault weapons ban,” universal background checks for gun sales and prohibiting the sale of high-capacity magazines. The NRA issued an F rating to Gillum.


DeSantis has promised to fully implement medical marijuana, which was overwhelmingly passed by Florida voters. But DeSantis said he has concerns legalizing marijuana for recreational use “would make it harder for parents.”

Gillum supports legalizing marijuana for recreational use, taxing it and putting the revenue into education.


DeSantis says he wants to expand school choice programs, promote vocational training and oppose the use of Common Core standards.

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The Power Lunch – Florida Politics Newsletter

Gillum proposes investing $1 billion into public schools and raising the starting pay for teachers to $50,000 a year.


DeSantis has a less-than-stellar rating from the League of Conservation Voters, scoring only 2 percent. In an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, DeSantis said the state should act to address sea-level rise, but climate change is best handled on the national and international level. He didn’t say with certainty that humans are contributing to climate change. DeSantis promises to stop discharges from Lake Okeechobee by storing polluted water south of the lake.

Gillum vows to stand up to interests that have contributed to the fouling of Florida waters and fueled unchecked development. He wants to transition to clean energy and calls climate change “a real and urgent threat.”

Both candidates oppose offshore oil drilling.

Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis are both 39 years old and beat establishment candidates initially favored to win, but they offer vastly different visions on the issues. ]]>