Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate and congressman Representative Charlie Crist announced on Thursday that he will legalize marijuana and expunge past cannabis-related convictions if he is elected governor. The statement drew a swift response from fellow Democratic candidate and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, however, who chided Crist for his past support of cannabis prohibition.
At an appearance at the state capitol in Tallahassee, Crist, who served as Florida’s governor as a Republican from 2007 to 2011, said that he would legalize marijuana if voters elect him to the office again next year. He also vowed to expunge convictions for cannabis-related misdemeanors and third-degree felonies.
“Let me be clear: If I’m elected governor, I will legalize marijuana in the Sunshine State,” Crist said in a video posted on Twitter on Thursday. “This is the first part of the Crist contract with Florida.”
Crist also said on Thursday that under his legalization proposal, taxes from sales of regulated marijuana would be used to fund law enforcement agencies, more teachers for the state’s schools and drug diversion and treatment programs. The plan also supports allowing home cultivation of up to six cannabis plants and reforming the state’s current marijuana industry by decentralizing it and making it more accessible to farmers who are people of color.
But Crist has been a late adopter of cannabis policy reform. While serving as Florida’s Republican governor, Crist signed legislation to make cultivation of 25 or more cannabis plants a second-degree felony, lowering the threshold from 300. In 2008, he said that he approved of Florida’s harsh drug laws and opposed efforts at reform.
After leaving the Florida governor’s mansion, Crist announced in 2012 that he had joined the Democratic Party. In 2014, he