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DeSantis’s Marijuana Opposition Campaign In Florida Raises Just $10,000 As Pro-Legalization Committee Rakes In Tens Of Millions

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) recently launched political action committee opposing a marijuana legalization ballot initiative has so far raised only $10,000—just 1/6,000th of the amount of money that’s poured into the effort to pass the cannabis measure.



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As of last week, the DeSantis “Florida Freedom Fund” has only raised $10,000 in contributions—all coming from a former Republican congressman representing Pennsylvania, campaign finance records from the Division of Elections records show. By contrast, the Smart & Safe Florida campaign behind the marijuana initiative has raised over $60 million.


Of course, the PAC founded by the governor only launched in May, whereas the cannabis campaign has been active since late 2022. Even so, the early numbers seem to signal a lack of enthusiasm among prospective donors about supporting the effort to derail marijuana legalization, as well as an abortion rights proposal that the DeSantis committee is also seeking to defeat.

 

Former U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA), the DeSantis committee’s sole donor—voted against numerous amendment in Congress to shield state marijuana laws from federal interference. He also opposed measures on cannabis banking and to allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana.


The campaign finance data was first reported by Florida Politics on Saturday.


DeSantis has been railing against the marijuana measure for months—most recently arguing that it would protect the right to use cannabis more strongly than the First Amendment protects free speech or the Second Amendment protects gun rights—and again claiming that the reform has been a “failed experiment” in states such as Colorado.


The governor said last week that the proposal would allow people to “do marijuana wherever you want—just smoke it, take it, and it would turn Florida into San Francisco or Chicago or some of these places.”



“We’ve got to keep our streets clean. We cannot have every town smelling like marijuana. We cannot have every hotel smelling—theme parks,” he said, adding that voters don’t really understand the specifics of the legalization proposal and that ballot initiatives are generally “so bogus.”


DeSantis acknowledged that the state Supreme Court has a role in reviewing ballot language for constitutionality, and that a majority of justices determined that the marijuana measure met the legal standard. But while he previously correctly predicted the court would approve the initiative following a challenge from state Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), he now says the two dissenting justices were “correct” in trying to block voters from deciding on the measure.


DeSantis also claimed last month that that if voters approve the marijuana legalization initiative, people “will be able to bring 20 joints to an elementary school”—and he again complained about the prevalent odor of cannabis that he says would result from the reform.

Legalization has “not worked in any single place,” the governor said, and he challenged a recent ad from the campaign that promoted regulating cannabis as an alternative to the status quo of people using untested cannabis from illicit sellers.


Meanwhile, according to a Fox News poll released last month, two in three Florida voters support the cannabis initiative—with the issue proving more popular than the governor himself. The survey showed majority support for legalization across the political spectrum, too.


Despite his opposition to the marijuana legalization, DeSantis recently vetoed a bill to ban the sale of intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids in his state. The action came amid reporting that the governor planned to block the hemp prohibition legislation in hopes that the industry would return the favor by financially assisting in his effort to defeat the marijuana initiative.


The governor has consistently argued that the state shouldn’t go beyond the existing medical cannabis program and that broader reform would negatively impact the quality of life for Floridians. The Florida Republican Party also formally came out against Amendment 3 last month.


Smart & Safe Florida separately announced in March that it was working to form a coalition of veterans to build voter support for the reform, and the campaign has since formally launched that initiative.


Here’s what the Smart & Safe Florida marijuana legalization initiative would accomplish:


  • Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis for personal use. The cap for marijuana concentrates would be five grams.

  • Medical cannabis dispensaries could “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute marijuana products and marijuana accessories to adults for personal use.”

  • The legislature would be authorized—but not required—to approve additional entities that are not currently licensed cannabis dispensaries.

  • The initiative specifies that nothing in the proposal prevents the legislature from “enacting laws that are consistent with this amendment.”

  • The amendment further clarifies that nothing about the proposal “changes federal law,” which seems to be an effort to avoid past legal challenges about misleading ballot language.

  • There are no provisions for home cultivation, expungement of prior records or social equity.

  • The measure would take effect six months following approval by voters.


Here’s the full text of the ballot title and summary:


“Allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise; allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories. Applies to Florida law; does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law. Establishes possession limits for personal use. Allows consistent legislation. Defines terms. Provides effective date.”


Economic analysts from the Florida legislature and DeSantis’s office, estimate that the marijuana legalization initiative would generate between $195.6 million and $431.3 million in new sales tax revenue annually if voters enact it. Those figures could increase considerably if lawmakers opted to impose an additional excise tax on cannabis transactions that’s similar to the ones in place in other legalized states.


Unlike the governor, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) said in April that he does believe Florida voters will approve the legalization initiative.

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