Attorney General of Florida | 2018

Implementation of medical marijuana measure splits attorney general candidates

Daniel Nichanian

Amid a nationwide pattern of referendums being disregarded by elected officials, Sean Shaw says he is running for attorney general of Florida to “hold the legislature accountable” for failing to implement such initiatives. Shaw, a state lawmaker himself who is now the Democratic nominee, says he could even sue the legislature to ensure compliance.

One of the referendums that Shaw has in mind is on medical marijuana, which passed overwhelmingly as an amendment to the state Constitution in 2016. Governor Rick Scott and the legislature then adopted a ban on smoking marijuana. A court has since struck down that ban as violating the referendum, and officials are appealing that decision. The Republican nominee for attorney general, former circuit court judge Ashley Moody, supports the appeal and the ban on smokable marijuana, while Shaw calls the ban “arbitrary.” “The day I take office those appeals will end,” he said. Shaw has also indicated support for wider marijuana legalization and for policies that move away from incarcerating people for drug possession. “We ought to be building substance abuse centers, not just more prisons all the time,” he said.

(Oklahoma saw a similar battle as Florida’s this summer. After a June referendum legalized medical marijuana, the state’s health board adopted regulations that restricted its use, including a ban on smokable marijuana. The board backtracked a month later amidst widespread complaints.)

On issues that animate the state’s political scene, Moody and Shaw disagree along predictable lines. Those include Florida’s Stand Your Ground law (Shaw says that he would like it repealed because it enables murder), the Affordable Care Act lawsuit (which Moody, unlike Shaw, would maintain), and the initiative to restore the voting rights of most people who complete a felony conviction (Moody opposes it, Shaw supports it). In fact, Republicans have attacked Shaw as “soft on crime” in part because he backs rights restoration.

The GOP campaign against Andrew Gillum, Democrats’ nominee for governor, also revolves on criminal justice. A new ad narrated by Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly, and Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma describes Gillum as part of the “radical forces” that “want an end to the current policing and prison system.” But Staly for one should be familiar with the system’s faults; he keeps boasting about the poor conditions in his county jail.


Update: Ashley Moody won the Attorney General election on Nov. 6, 2018.