Last week was an important one in Florida politics, one that featured several crucial developments in the race to replace Rick Scott as governor—a contest which will also decide the future trajectory of cannabis policy in this state. The final contestants were determined in the Aug. 28 primary, in which Congressman Rick DeSantis cruised to an easy victory over Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, based largely on the endorsement of Donald Trump, whose word still means something to many voters here, “dumb Southerner” memes notwithstanding. (Maybe he’s right?)
His opponent, fighting out of the blue corner, is Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who became one of the major political stories of this season after surging forward to defeat four other opponents. They all had more money and, in some cases, bigger names—especially former congresswoman Gwen Graham who, like most establishment Democrats in our lifetime, hemmed and hawed about medical marijuana until it became law, at which point she embraced it. For the most part, she was the front-runner for entire campaign, and she acted like it, projecting an air of inevitability that finally faded only after the voting closed. In a season of upsets, she was perhaps the most upset of all.
The tumble continued; she was not only passed over for the chance to become Gillum’s running-mate but, according to some sources, was blatantly snubbed, with nary a speck of interest indicated, not even a phone call. Instead, Gillum chose Chris King, thus forging a formidable ticket of young, good-looking family men whose progressive credentials are as solid as their abs. Both of them were out front in support of decriminalization efforts early and often, and if they prove successful in bringing the governor’s mansion back under Democratic control for the first time in 20 years, they will likely support any efforts to make full legalization an item on the 2020 ballot.
Of course, said efforts are being driven largely by attorney John Morgan, and he wasted no time expressing his thoughts on the general election. The money-mark for Amendment 2 teased a run for governor himself but, in the end, chose to stay in his lane as the state’s tweeter-in-chief, while folks like Gillum and King drove the nug narrative from the front. “I was hard on Democrats who were soft on marijuana and the criminal justice reform that goes with it,” he tweeted on Sept. 7. “To all those who want #MedicalMarijuana implemented the way we voted for it and to one day make it recreational... #AndrewGillum is the only choice!”
Meanwhile, DeSantis was endorsed by the NRA, so it’s a wash. Early polls showed Gillum ahead by about three points following a spate of Republican race-baiting backfired, but you should all expect the political equivalent of trench warfare in the nine weeks ahead, with more dirty tricks than AVN Awards afterparty, as the future of Florida is decided county by county, city by city, block by block.
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