I Spoke With Florida Gov. Rick Scott About Marijuana


I just returned to D.C. from a conference in Palm Beach, where I briefly spoke with Gov. Rick Scott (R) about medical marijuana.

When I told him I was representing the Marijuana Policy Project, he responded by saying that he had received only one communication about medical marijuana during these first 14 months of his governorship. (It’s likely that he meant to say that he had spoken with only one constituent personally, as opposed to having received only one email message or one phone call from Florida constituents.)

In any case, his comment struck me as odd, because Floridians have consistently been more active via MPP’s website than MPP’s supporters in literally any other state. This has impressed me, because Florida is only the fourth most populous state, and Florida usually has almost no marijuana-related legislative activity in Tallahassee. So you’d think that Californians or New Yorkers would be more active than Floridians, but this hasn’t been the case.

I have no reason to believe that Gov. Scott was trying to fib, because there was no particular advantage or disadvantage to his taking a position on medical marijuana. Indeed, he wasn’t even taking a position on the issue.

But I’d like to view my conversation with the governor as a challenge to anyone in Florida who hasn’t already called or emailed Gov. Scott to say they’d like him to support medical marijuana legislation in Tallahassee. So, if you haven’t already done so, would you please call or email him?

If you live in Florida, you have a greater ability to influence his thinking than I do. And – if you do contact his office – please be polite, because I have the impression that he’s open-minded on our issue, at least in the long run.

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Presidential Hopeful Tim Pawlenty Offers No Hope for Medical Marijuana


On Monday, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced his decision to run for President of the United States. This should have been cause for concern for marijuana reformers and medical marijuana patients, and today that concern was justified.

Gov. Pawlenty has been no friend to marijuana reform in the past. In 2009, he vetoed a bill that would have allowed only terminally ill Minnesotans to use marijuana to ease their pain in their final days. Even though this bill was narrowly tailored to address the concerns of law enforcement, Pawlenty vetoed it regardless, citing… further law enforcement concerns.

This is the same guy who supported a court decision that could have made possession of bong water a felony.

Given this disturbing behavior, and the damage that an anti-marijuana zealot in the White House could do to all the progress we have made in the last few years, we decided to find out if T-Paw still feels the same about the issue.

He does.

After speaking today at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. on such subjects as limited government, federal interference in health care, and saving taxpayer money, MPP’s Bob Capecchi asked the former governor how he could justify vetoing the Minnesota medical marijuana bill, given his stances on these issues.

Pawlenty dodged these obvious inconsistencies completely, and deferred to his standard rhetoric.

“Marijuana? Yeah,” Pawlenty said. “Well… I stood with law enforcement on this issue. We just have a respectful difference on this issue.”

He also mentioned that law enforcement have pretty serious concerns about medical marijuana. Is one of those concerns losing the ability to waste taxpayer money arresting sick people? This difference of opinion doesn’t seem respectful to seriously ill people, let alone to ideological consistency or integrity.

Marijuana reform could become a huge issue during the next presidential election. It is important that we keep putting pressure on candidates to clearly state their position on the issue, and to hold them accountable for that stance in the polls. We need to confront every candidate at every opportunity! Some of us are sure to get chances to question the candidates prior to the election, so let’s use them!

Please send any video of candidates answering such questions to [email protected].

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New Cato Report: Marijuana Prohibition Costs Almost $18 Billion A Year


The United States could improve its national budget by nearly $18 billion annually if we taxed and regulated marijuana like alcohol, according to a newly released study from the Cato Institute.

The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition,” by Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron and Katherine Waldock, a doctoral candidate at the Stern School of Business at New York University, estimates the amount of money state and federal governments could both save from reduced expenditures and make from tax revenue, if marijuana and other drugs were made legal, taxed, and regulated.

The report concludes that, between savings and tax revenue, government budgets would improve by $17.4 billion annually if we regulated marijuana, and approximately $88 billion annually if we regulated all drugs.

Those are some pretty big numbers. But this part of the conclusion is what really caught my eye:

“About half of the budgetary improvement from legalization is due to reduced criminal justice expenditures. But for this component of the impact to show up in government budgets, policymakers would have to lay off police, prosecutors, prison guards, and the like. Because such a move would be politically painful, it may not occur. It is certainly true that reduced expenditure on enforcing drug prohibition can still be beneficial if those criminal justice resources are re-deployed to better uses, but that outcome is difficult to achieve.”

Politicians might not have the stomach for it, but luckily we live in a country where many states can enact laws through ballot initiatives, such as Prop 19, the marijuana legalization measure Californians will vote on this November. According to the Cato report, making marijuana legal in California could raise $351.88 million in tax revenue, and save about $959.75 million in government expenditures. That’s more than $1.3 billion annually.

In July, the California Board of Equalization estimated that the state could collect up to $1.4 billion by ending marijuana prohibition.

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