Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist on Thursday vowed that he would legalize marijuana and expunge existing criminal records if he is elected next year, The Tampa Bay Times reports.
Crist said that the Sunshine State would join a growing number of states across the country in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. He said he would also support erasing the criminal records of those arrested on misdemeanor or third-degree felony charges.
Crist said that the revenue from marijuana sales would fund police, drug treatment, and diversion programs.
Crist, a Democrat who previously served as the state’s governor, currently serves in Congress where he voted to end the federal criminalization of marijuana last year before the Senate refused to take up the bill.
“For me, it’s personal,” Crist said. “I lost an older sister. She had brain cancer several years ago. And I think about Margaret, and I think about how it wouldn’t have been as painful for her perhaps if marijuana had been legalized and the stigma taken off of it.”
Rival Dem calls out Crist’s past:
Crist is facing Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Democratic primary with a general election battle against Gov. Ron DeSantis on the line.
Fried has already called to legalize marijuana and expunge past criminal records. She has also been open about her medical marijuana use and has called on Congress to end the federal prohibition on weed.
Fried also has a $130,000 investment in a medical marijuana treatment center in Florida.
Fried said on Twitter that people went to jail because Crist “supported and enforced racist marijuana bills.”
“Glad he’s changed his mind, but none of those people get those years back,” she wrote.
Crist reversed position:
Crist, who was a Republican when he served as governor, said he thinks most people’s stance on marijuana has shifted over the last decade.
In his lone term as governor, Crist signed a law creating stiffer penalties for people caught growing marijuana plants but the state’s strict marijuana laws largely precede his tenure.
Marijuana legalization is part of Crist’s “Justice for All” platform, which also calls to restore voting rights for non-violent felons, banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, reform criminal sentencing laws, and review past convictions.