Philip Levine is the latest Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate to call for legalizing pot, releasing an ad Friday advocating for “forward-looking reform” on marijuana policy that he said would generate $600 million in revenue for the state.
The former mayor of Miami Beach said if elected governor, “I will carefully move to legalize the sale of limited quantities of recreational marijuana for adults, either through the Legislature or by a vote of the people of Florida, while learning from the many states that have already moved — or are moving — this way.”
He stressed, however, that “Careful means controlled.”
“All growth and distribution will be highly regulated, all sales to anyone under 21 will be banned, possession to those over 21 limited, and as a mayor who saw local decision-making usurped by Tallahassee, I will protect local control over the size, number and locations of outlets,” he said.
The estimated $600 million in revenue would come from licenses and taxes on sales, he said, and would be dedicated to investing in public schools and fighting substance abuse. The state could also possibly save $3.9 million a year on the Medicaid costs associated with imprisoning nonviolent offenders.
“Finally, and morally, this is the right thing to do as today black Floridians are four times more likely to be arrested than whites for drug possession in some counties. As a result, our minority communities grow to distrust the police, and their neighborhoods are over-policed, while ruining employment opportunities,” Levine said. “This is a wrong that must be righted.”
Among Levine’s Democratic opponents, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King have already called for legalization of recreational marijuana. And former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has called for reducing sentences for nonviolent drug possession and decriminalizing personal possession of marijuana.
The Republican gubernatorial candidates, agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, oppose legalization.