DeSantis Signs Bill Banning Medical Marijuana At Treatment Residences A Day After RFK Jr Pledges To Legalize Weed.

The partisan nature of cannabis policy was put on display with announcements within 24 hours of each other, on an ironically smokey week due to the Canadian fires.

by Rowan Nathan · July 01, 2023

The partisan nature of cannabis policy was put on display with announcements within 24 hours of each other, on an ironically smokey week due to the Canadian fires.

On Tuesday Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, has signed a bill that prohibits sober living homes and facilities from permitting residents to possess or use medical marijuana. In a state with a booming medical cannabis industry, the governor signed legislation, SB 210, which prohibits possessing or using medical pot even if the patient is registered with a doctor to use cannabis therapeutically in accordance with current state law. Under the new law, applicants seeking to obtain permits to operate recovery residences under the Department of Children and Families will need to warrant that they do not permit any cannabis use, including “marijuana that has been certified by a qualified physician for medical use.”

One day earlier, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a 2024 Democratic presidential candidate, said he would legalize marijuana and psychedelics if elected to the White House. He indicated he would tax both substances, using revenue to create “healing centers” where people recovering from drug addiction “ can grow organic food and eat well and heal themselves spiritually, physically and emotionally.” He also voiced support for passing cannabis banking reform.

During a town hall event with NewsNation on Wednesday, President John F. Kennedy’s nephew proclaimed- “I’m going to decriminalize marijuana on a federal basis, allow the states to regulate it, continue to tax it federally and use those taxes to fund the recovery programs,” he said. “And I would do the same thing for psychedelic drugs, which I do not think should be criminalized.” Kennedy talked about his well chronicled struggles with addiction during his youth and lessons that were taken away from his many years in recovery. He shared the growth and healing he’s seen in his own family where psychedelics can facilitate the psychological shift needed for long-term recovery.

The progressive weed policy and harm-reductive approach to addiction Kennedy spoke of was in stark contrast to Florida’s Republican Governor bill signing the day before. RFK Jr’s ideas went far beyond anything offered up by other presidential candidates, including Democrats.
President Biden made pledges during the 2020 election that cannabis advocates say did not go far enough. In 2022 Biden signed a proclamation to pardon and expunge simple marijuana possession charges. Although his pardons could benefit as many as 10,000 individuals, Bidens act will not free a single Federal marijuana prisoner. The Biden administration has also failed to act on banking reform for the legal cannabis industry. Normalized banking and 280E are universally seen as the largest roadblocks to legal weed companies’ ability to survive and thrive under the current pile of taxes local, state, and excise taxes levied.

Meanwhile, DeSantis, who served in the military before entering his career in politics, has been consistent in his opposition to any and all pro-cannabis initiatives- medical or recreational. Currently trailing Trump in polls, the Republican Governor has shown no empathy for weed, or any creativity in his platform to unseat Trump as the republican presidential candidate. Aside from shipping migrants to democratic sanctuary cities.
DeSantis is of course not the only Republican to have blocked cannabis legislation. GOP led states have killed pro-pot initiatives throughout southern and midwestern states, most recently the Senate vote in Wisconsin that went directly along party lines.

On the other side of the aisle, Kennedy stands little chance of seizing the Democratic nomination away from President Biden. His maverick position on cannabis legalization should gain him attention among at least some of the over half of all Americans who want legal weed delivery and are in favor of legalization, however it hasn't been a successful strategy for other fringe Democratic Presidential hopefuls. In 2020 New Jersey Senator Corey Booker touted his cannabis legalization plan but failed to get meaningful traction in primaries.

The most interesting outlier to the partisan nature of weed policy is South Carolina Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace. The first republican woman to be elected to Congress in the southern state, Mace sponsored what many cannabis insiders see as the most pragmatic cannabis legalization. The 44-year-old freshman Congresswoman, who represents South Carolina’s coastal swing district spanning Charleston to Hilton Head, introduced the States Reform Act in November of 2021, a bill that would end the federal government’s 85-year prohibition on marijuana. Mace’s vision of legalization: end federal prohibition, institute a low federal excise tax, regulate weed similar to alcohol, and allow states to create and administer their own laws. The simplicity and low flat tax is hands down the best legalization concept for the cannabis industry, who adores Mace and her bill.

According to the latest Pew Research Center survey conducted in October of last year, an overwhelming 88% of US adults think medical marijuana should be legal, and a strong majority, 59%, think it should be legal for adults to use recreationally. 30% of adults think pot should only be available medically, while just one-in-ten (10%) believe cannabis should not be legal. These figures make it clear cannabis has the potential to help swing an election. Unfortunately, the gridlocks in Senate and Congress have halted progress and negated candidates from bringing forward any version of weed legalization or galvanizing blocks of voters. And with this set of party dynamics, the question is will anything change as we get closer to the next elections?