Desantis Launches New PAC to Combat Cannabis Legalization Initiative

Desantis Launches New PAC to Combat Cannabis Legalization Initiative

Following his unexpected and controversial veto of a bill that would've banned hemp-derived intoxicants, Florida's governor is launching the new Political Action Committee in an attempt to throttle the well-funded and popular marijuana legalization measure.

Undaunted by criticism over his decision to veto a measure designed to increase regulatory controls over the state's hemp industry, including a ban against most intoxicating hemp derivatives (IHDs), Florida Governor Ron Desantis is going all in on his plan to use financial support from hemp stakeholders to fund his campaign against a ballot initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis in the Sunshine State.

 

Last week, the Florida chief executive stunned state lawmakers and many influential players from the Big Cannabis lobby when he vetoed Senate Bill 1698, a measure that would've provided some much-needed regulation for the predominantly unregulated hemp industry. 

 

Along with establishing rules and guidelines for the young but fast-growing market sector, the legislation would have also enforced a ban on most products containing IHDs, like the much-maligned delta-8 THC.

 

That proposed ban and its potentially devastating economic implications for many hemp businesses was the exact bait Desantis needed to ensnare several panicked and short-sighted members of the Florida hemp community to become financial and political accessories to his plan to vanquish a proposed ballot initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state.

 

According to several anonymous inside sources, a behind-the-scenes drama unfolded last week as Gov. Desantis met with key players from the state's hemp industry to hatch a plan to take on the legalization effort while simultaneously quashing the hemp regulation bill sitting on the governor's desk awaiting his signature. 

 

Now, less than a week after killing the hemp measure, Desantis announced the launching of a new political action committee (PAC) to aid his efforts against not only the cannabis legalization ballot initiative but also an abortion rights measure set to appear on the November ballot as well.

 

The PAC, known as the Florida Freedom Fund, will be run by the governor's chief of staff, James Uthmeier. Following the launch, a Desantis spokesperson told Politico that the PAC "will be championing issues and candidates committed to preserving Floridians' freedom."

 
"(The PAC) will be championing issues and candidates committed to preserving Floridians' freedom."

- Spokesperson for Florida Governor Ron Desantis (R)

 

Ironically, a recently released campaign finance report revealed over $5 million in new contributions for the pro-cannabis legalization measure in the past two months. According to the report's details, the Smart & Safe Florida campaign reported more than $5.2 million in fresh financial donations between April 1 and May 31.

 

Likewise, a new poll from Fox News revealed that two in three Florida voters, including a majority of Republicans, support the legalization initiative. The multi-question survey found that while 66% of voters approve of the marijuana ballot measure (60% is the threshold for passing the proposed constitutional amendment), only 52% say they strongly or somewhat approve of Desantis's job as governor.

 

For many Florida hemp stakeholders, the move is being viewed as "dirty politics" and could ultimately end up doing more harm to the state's hemp industry than the initial hemp bill vetoed by Desantis. 

 

As Nothing But Hemp's Founder and CEO Steven Brown lamented, "Hemp and cannabis interests had just begun to work together to find common ground for a peaceful and financially successful coexistence. This action just set that effort back ten steps. Spurned state lawmakers and marijuana businesses will use this against us, and we will be left with even harsher regulations in the end."

 
"Hemp and cannabis interests had just begun to work together to find common ground for a peaceful and financially successful coexistence. This action just set that effort back ten steps. Spurned state lawmakers and marijuana businesses will use this against us, and we will be left with even harsher regulations in the end."

- Steven Brown, Founder and CEO of Nothing But Hemp

 

Hemp and cannabis are two parts of the same plant. One cannot exist without the other, and their ultimate long-term success depends on cooperation and not industry-killing actions like the one by Desantis and his minions. 

 

The best-case scenario is for the ballot measure to pass legalizing adult-use cannabis. If voters don't approve it in November, the future of the hemp industry and the thousands of people employed by it in Florida could be in significant existential peril.