The election ended and the short and long-term direction of the United States has been changed. Whether you believe for the better or not, many were surprised that Florida was not in the midst of any controversy or voter conspiracies. It was a rare and quiet election for the Sunshine State, but was it a bit too quiet? As other states voted on policies for drugs, including marijuana, the issue was left off the ballot for Florida.
Many voters are asking a very simple question on this issue: Why? Why, year after year, does Florida fall behind the rest of the country with the recreational marijuana option as other states not only allow it, but see a major influx in tax revenue and economic growth. What are the reasons against making the switch or at least, allowing voters the option to decide what the state should do?
No one wants to be the first, the trial run, especially when it comes to the legalization of a drug. However, other states have done this already and the reports across the board are enough to give any state something to think about. The three leading states – California, Colorado and Pennsylvania – have all reported job grown between 20,000 and 50,000 with the legalization for recreational use.
Colorado alone in 2019 saw over $300 million in tax and fee revenue which does not include the additional $1.7 billion in sales revenue for the state. Keep something in mind, Florida has nearly four times the population of Colorado, so even if you take a modest route and only double those numbers, it’s still a staggering amount of money being pushed into the state.
One possible benefit for states who have legalized recreational use of marijuana is the reduction of opioid addiction. However, as more data has been collected, the numbers seem to move to the other side, indicating that the demand and addiction of opioids does not decrease over time. This area will need to be reviewed each year before a theory can be proven.
Strangely enough, a big reason why weed has not been in more of the discussion in Florida politics may be because of one political party and their voters, the Republican party. Surveys show that older republicans (Gen X and Boomers) seem to be divided on the subject while younger voters in the party are for it. However, because it’s the older members of the GOP who currently hold the political seats throughout the state, it’s easy to see why the topic isn’t discussed as much.
A perfect example is how Senator Rick Scott ignored the demand of the voters while governor of the state of Florida. The election of 2016 saw Florida voters approve the use of medical marijuana, including via smoking, for use to help with pain management for debilitating medical conditions. The amendment was passed by over 70% of the voters, yet Scott still refused to sign off on it.
It wasn’t until Governor Ron DeSantis took over in 2018 that it was approved. DeSantis is 25 years younger than Scott and despite being a Republican, has shown a greater interest in more progressive options to benefit the state. However, it’s hard to say whether DeSantis is motivated by practical, progressive thinking or by something else.
While older Republicans seem to be against the legalization of recreational marijuana, the GOP has plenty of members who have purchased businesses, lands, stock and created deals that will financially benefit them in the decades to come, especially once the drug is approved for recreational use. Holding off on approving the option while you buy up land, business, stocks and licenses for the industry is smart business, but it could be coming at the expense of taxpayers during a time when the state desperately needs an influx of jobs and revenue.
Another major reason why this topic should have already been up for voters to decide on by now is because of the impact Covid has had on Florida’s economy. Legalization of marijuana for recreational use would lead to thousands of jobs within the state. Because the coronavirus pandemic has hit Florida’s tourism especially hard, people who have lost their jobs throughout the state would benefit from the option of working in an industry that is thriving, despite the severity of the pandemic.
Imagine 50,000 new jobs and $2 billion dollars being added to Florida’s economy in 2021? Wouldn’t that be the perfect response and boost to an economy that has been hit hard by the pandemic?
While it would not address all the financial problems the pandemic has created, it would assist tens of thousands of residents and supply the state with more revenue each year. While many of the issues and topics in Florida’s politics are highly contested, this is one that actually is not, yet it seems that older members of the government as well as their voters are not interested in Florida joining other states that are thriving with a new source of revenue and homegrown jobs.