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DeSantis moves to the common-sense center

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After s contentious and controversial gubernatorial race last year, many Florida progressives were right to express concern about how Ron DeSantis would conduct himself after he officially took office on Tuesday, Jan. 8. It was especially dicey for cannabisseurs who had just watched his predecessor move heaven and earth to obstruct the implementation of Amendment 2 in the two previous years. I am happy to report that, as things now stand, it seems that those concerns were unfounded.

So far, DeSantis has shocked the world by not being crazy, and it appears he might even intend to govern from the center-right–at least on some matters. The marijuana issue is the most notable of several examples worth citing. He was in Miami on Jan. 14 when he echoed longstanding criticism of the new law’s implementation by Rick Scott, with whom DeSantis has been low-key feuding over last-minute appointments the departing governor made on his way out the door. Three days later, he announced his plans to drop the lawsuit Scott launched last year to prevent the smoking of medical marijuana in Florida. The move will immediately accelerate the growth of the state’s marijuana industry. His words and actions have drawn praise from both sides of the aisle, from Democrats like John Morgan to Republicans like Matt Gaetz.

“This was not an amendment that was really that close,” DeSantis said. “It was like 72 percent.”

DeSantis is not a liberal by any means, but his remarks are a nod to his party’s libertarian wing, which has advocated full legalization since the days of Bill Buckley and Barry Goldwater. Whereas Scott hewed to the hard right in regard to pot procedurals, DeSantis seems to appreciate the bipartisan consensus that has emerged on the issue. It’s not like he’s sacrificing political capital to get it done, because he doesn’t really have any. If anything, this will add political capital and preempt a key source of potential opposition support in advance of what will surely be a hellacious re-election effort.

With millions of felons ready to vote Democrat in 2022, throwing the existing balance of power into flux, and Andrew Gillum ready to reinforce his already-thick Rolodex with a stint at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, the new governor is showing far more political smarts than even his strongest supporters ever gave him credit for having. One would assume his wife Casey, who toiled on TV for years at WJXT, played a key role in smoothing out his rough edges, tempering the alarmist rhetoric of the campaign and reminding him that, as the kids say, streets is watching. So far, they like what they see.

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