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The Green Vote

City, state and nation move closer to legalization

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The first–and perhaps last–round of local elections are less than a week away, and for any of you cannabisseurs out there who may be wondering if these contests will have any impact on the status of medical marijuana in Jacksonville, the short answer is: nope. Like most cities in Florida, ours will be taking its cues on the subject from Tallahassee, where the new governor is moving forward with plans to allow patients to smoke the pot (if properly licensed, of course). That will directly benefit the city’s thousands of medical card-holders, as well as the ever-growing number of dispensaries and other businesses being built to service that demand.

I will note, however, that regardless of who wins the race for mayor, sheriff and/or any of the 19 city council spots up for grabs, one expects the post-election power structure of Jacksonville to coalesce around the same general consensus that is slowly emerging around the country, namely that marijuana needs to be decoupled from other existing drug-war protocols. The nation is starting to recognize that the resources wasted on locking up pot smokers can be spent on other things–like locking up everyone else. We have already seen that process playing out in larger cities like New York and Washington, D.C. With violent crime remaining a major problem here, law enforcement and civilians alike will be looking frantically for any option available to maximize taxpayer ROI. Scaling back the criminalization of nonviolent possession cases is the most logical first step to free up real money for the real work that needs to be done. And all available evidence suggests that voters fully support such changes.

For example, the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at UNF (which has rapidly emerged as one of the leading polling organizations in the entire state) recently published results of a statewide poll showing that, much like the rest of the country, Floridian support for full legalization is trending upward. According to the poll, which was conducted from February 20 to 27, some 87 percent of respondents “strongly or somewhat support allowing adults in Florida to legally use smokable marijuana for medical purposes if the doctor prescribes it.” That suggests firm bipartisan support for the moves Governor Ron DeSantis is making in that direction. Now, going a good bit further down that slippery slope, 62 percent “strongly or somewhat support allowing adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.”

The poll was built from a sample group of 870 registered Florida voters, all of whom seem like the type of people I would enjoy hanging out with. While there is plenty of room for argument about the sample size, the methodology and the potential internal biases related to this (and pretty much every) poll, it’s worth noting that these results appear consistent with similar studies undertaken all over the country. So if the city’s next generation of political leaders feels inclined to liberalize cannabis policy, they can credibly claim a mandate on this subject, if not necessarily any other.

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