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Southern Poverty Law Center calls on Ron DeSantis to pardon Floridians convicted of marijuana possession

Tallahassee, Fla. — Early today, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) sent a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asking him to pardon Floridians convicted of simple marijuana possession.The move would follow similar steps taken by President Biden in pardoning people convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law.  

The letter, signed by Andrea McChristian, SPLC policy research director, and Shay Farley, regional policy director, asks DeSantis to prioritize pardons when the State Board of Executive Clemency meets on Dec. 14.  
“As public sentiment toward the War on Drugs has evolved, momentum builds across the U.S. toward bipartisan reforms, including the adoption of a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for medical use in 2016, passed with 71% approval of Florida voters,” the letter said. “Even so, there are people sitting in Florida’s jails and prisons whose only offense is having a small amount of marijuana in their possession.” 

While the exact number of people in Florida with a simple marijuana possession conviction is unclear, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the state arrested 20,765 and convicted 4,202 people in 2021 for marijuana possession, a 13% and 29% increase, respectively, from 2020.  

The following is a statement from Andrea McChristian, policy research director at the Southern Poverty Law Center.  

“It is common sense for Gov. DeSantis to prioritize granting full pardons for Floridians with simple marijuana possession convictions. We know these people are not a threat to society, and the savings to taxpayers ensuring these individuals are no longer incarcerated is something all Florida residents would appreciate.”