Crist says as Florida governor he would legalize marijuana, expunge criminal records

Rep. Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristFlorida Republicans debate how far to push congressional remap DeSantis officially files paperwork for reelection bid Democrats brace for flood of retirements after Virginia rout MORE (D-Fla.) on Thursday said that he would expunge criminal records of those facing certain marijuana-related charges and legalize the drug if he is elected the governor of Florida.

“Let me be clear: If I’m elected governor, I will legalize marijuana in the Sunshine State,” Crist said in a video posted on his Twitter on Thursday. “This is the first part of the Crist contract with Florida.”

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Crist, who is running for the Democratic nomination to take on Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisHaley hits the stump in South Carolina Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills A sad reality: In a season of giving, most will ignore America's poor MORE (R) in 2022, discussed different elements of his gubernatorial platform focused on racial equity in the state, including expunging criminal records for those who have received marijuana-related charges, specifically third-degree felonies and misdemeanors, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The former Florida governor and Senate hopeful also said that he was in favor of decentralizing the marijuana industry, allowing people to personally grow marijuana plants. He noted that money made through marijuana sales would fund things such as drug treatment programs and police agencies, according to the news outlet.

Crist, who was a Republican while he was in the governor's mansion from 2007 to 2011, acknowledged that his stance, among others, had changed on marijuana use. As governor, he had signed harsh anti-marijuana legislation, which included targeting growing the plant.

His comments were criticized over Twitter by Democratic opponent Nikki Fried, who is also running to take on DeSantis.

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The state Agriculture commissioner, who has been previously supportive of legalizing marijuana and was a former marijuana lobbyist, according to Tallahassee Reports, accused him of imitating her political stance.

“Imitation is flattery, but records are records. People went to jail because Republicans like @CharlieCrist supported and enforced racist marijuana crime bills. Glad he's changed his mind, but none of those people get those years back. Legalize marijuana. #SomethingNew,” Fried tweeted.

Crist last year voted to end marijuana from being prohibited and criminalized federally. 

“We know that people across racial and income levels use marijuana at the same rate. And yet, for decades, it's been poor, Black, and/or Hispanic folks targeted for prison on marijuana charges,” Crist said in a statement in December. “That tells me that marijuana has been legal now for a while if you had the right skin tone or the right paycheck.”

Fried has also previously called on Congress to end the prohibition of marijuana, according to the Tampa Bay Times.