Democrats Sense Opportunities in Florida With Weed, Abortion on the Ballot

Voters in Florida will see ballot measures to legalize adult-use cannabis and protect abortion rights in the general election, giving Democratic strategists hopes of winning the state for President Biden in November.

Democratic strategists see opportunities to attract Florida voters to the party’s candidates now that constitutional amendment initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana and guarantee broader abortion rights have qualified for the ballot. The Florida Supreme Court announced on April 1 that Amendment 3 to legalize adult-use cannabis and Amendment 4 to protect abortion rights had fulfilled state requirements and would appear on the ballot for this fall’s presidential general election.

If passed, Amendment 3 would legalize cannabis for adults aged 21 and older and allow Florida’s existing licensed medical marijuana retailers to begin serving all adult consumers. Amendment 4 says that “no law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider,” with an exception for laws that require parental notification when minors get abortions. If passed, the amendment would effectively nullify a separate Supreme Court ruling issued last week that upheld the state’s 15-week limit on abortion and set the stage for approval of a six-week limit.

With 30 electoral votes, both the Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns eye Florida as a significant step on the path to victory in November. Democratic strategists see the addition of Amendment 3 and Amendment 4 to the November ballot as an opportunity to attract young voters, who tend to support abortion rights and cannabis policy reform.

“Both abortion and marijuana legalization are highly resonate with young people, which is a key demographic that the president has got to turn out,” Joseph Geevarghese, executive director of the grassroots progressive group Our Revolution, told The Hill

Biden Campaign Eyes Florida

On Monday, the Biden campaign released a memo indicating it would invest heavily in Trump’s home state of Florida, saying the policies of the former president and the Republican Party are “making Floridians’ lives worse.” Four years ago, Trump won the Sunshine State with 51% of the vote, while Biden took 48% of the vote.

Julie Chávez Rodríguez, the campaign manager for Biden’s reelection bid, said that the campaign is running ads in Florida targeting young voters and other demographic groups including Black and Hispanic voters. 

“Make no mistake: Florida is not an easy state to win, but it is a winnable one for President Biden, especially given Trump’s weak, cash-strapped campaign, and serious vulnerabilities within his coalition,” she said in the memo.

To win the state, the Biden campaign will have to have a strong showing from Democratic-leaning voting blocks including Black voters and young adults. Nikki Fried, chair of the Florida Democratic Party and an ally of the medical cannabis industry while serving as the state’s commissioner of agriculture, said she has already observed increased enthusiasm among young voters since the court rulings last week.

“Just based purely on watching social media in the last 24 hours, the youth vote is excited about the opportunity to be voting on cannabis and abortion in November,” she said.

Michael Starr Hopkins has experience running Democratic campaigns in Florida, serving as senior advisor for former Congressman Charlie Crist’s unsuccessful bid for governor of the state in 2022. As the country gears up for the November vote, the Democratic strategist sees the views of many Republicans as incompatible with those of most younger voters.

“Abortion and marijuana on the ballot could be an electoral earthquake for the youth vote in Florida. The GOP’s anti-choice, anti-cannabis stance isn’t just out of touch, it’s straight out of the stone age,” said Starr Hopkins. “Having these two hot-button issues front and center is going to turbocharge youth turnout, which is never a good thing for Republicans.”

Democrats See Success in Ohio and Alabama

Democrats see similarities between the situation developing in Florida this year with the 2023 race in Ohio. The ballot for that election included an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana and an amendment to enshrine the “fundamental right to reproductive freedom” with “reasonable limits” in the Ohio Constitution. Propelled in part by a strong turnout of young voters, both ballot measures passed, handing Republican party leaders two losses in one fell swoop.

In Alabama late last month, Democrat Marilyn Lands won a special election for a state House seat after leaning into abortion rights and protecting in vitro fertilization (IVF) as issues for her campaign. Only weeks before, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen human embryos are legally people, leading to a halt of IVF services in the state, at least temporarily.

“Ballot initiatives can be game changing for campaigns. Just last week we saw a Democrat win a state house seat in Alabama focused on IVF, showing the power of the issue in a deep red state,” said Democratic strategist Andrea Riccio, co-founder of Velocity Partners. “With recreational marijuana use and abortion access on the ballot, the Biden campaign has a real opportunity to activate young voters and turn Florida blue.”

Currently, Trump has a 0.8 percentage point lead over Biden overall, according to The Hill and Decision Desk HQ’s aggregation of polls. With weed and abortion on the ballot in Florida, however, Democrats believe they can overcome the deficit in the state, securing its 30 electoral votes for Biden.

“If the GOP keeps underestimating the power of pissed-off young people, they’re in for a rude awakening at the ballot box. Florida could slip from their grasp as cash-strapped Republicans struggle to counter the surge of energized young voters,” said Starr Hopkins. “It’s a perfect storm that could spell disaster for the GOP’s chances in the Sunshine State.”


    The RIGHT to have an Abortion and the RIGHT to consume Cannabis are PRECISELY THE SAME ISSUE; that is peoples RIGHT (FREEDOM) to do what they want to their own body.

    I’d much rather vote for an old ignoramus than a fascist scumbag who has no respect for anyone else’s rights and fantasises about having a Dictatorship like his murderous ‘friend’ Vladimir Putin.

    The irony of Trump and Putin’s relationship is that no doubt privately Putin sees Trump as an absolute SFB joke, an incompetent businessman who’s been repeatedly bankrupt (i.e. doesn’t pay his debts to other people) and yet was born a millionaire – the complete opposite to Putin, who’s probably the richest person on the planet and is a totally self-made man who fought his way to the top of the KGB no less!

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