If Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for drug czar, marijuana advocates might not be as disappointed as they imagine.
True, in 2014 Bondi went all out trying to keep John Morgan's medical marijuana initiative off Florida’s ballot. It didn't work, Floridians voted on the initiative anyway, but it only received 57.6 percent of the vote, falling short of the 60 percent constitutional amendments need to win.
By 2016 Bondi had thought it through. She could have done it again -- hard-charged after the amendment, working to kill it before the ballots were printed.
But this time, with public support of the initiative polling north of 70 percent, "Bondi announced that while she was personally opposed to legalizing medical marijuana, she would not be doing anything to oppose it, either in her official role as attorney general or as a citizen." And apart from some obligatory statements opposing the initiative, she didn’t. When the amendment passed with 71.3 percent of the vote, we never heard a peep out of AG Bondi.
As committed as she's been to taking down Florida's pill mills and cracking down on the illegal use of prescription drugs generally, Bondi is not so ideologically committed to keeping marijuana illegal that she won’t stand down in the face of overwhelming public opposition to her position. She and others who opposed the 2014 amendment filed more than 200 pages in legal briefs then, while in 2016 -- nothing.
Bondi made it plain she still didn't approve. But part of her reason, she said, was because the loss at the polls in 2014 showed that voters thought marijuana was "bad for Florida."
Nearly three-quarters of Florida voters in 2016 showed her she was wrong.
Plus, national polling puts support for legalizing marijuana at 60 percent. That's straight-up marijuana. Support for medical marijuana is off the charts. Get this:
Eight out of ten Americans support the medical use of marijuana, and nearly 3 out of 4 Americans support a fine-only (no jail) for recreational smokers. 58 percent of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana, according to the most recent Gallup poll on the subject -- which is the highest percentage support ever reported in a nationwide scientific poll.
Bondi, as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy -- and with her experience in the last two Florida elections -- is likely to show a healthy respect for public opinion. At least when it comes to making decisions about how much federal effort should be put into the federal war on marijuana.
Who's to say what Donald Trump will do, or what he wants from his drug czar. On the other hand, this is the man who says the federal government gets in the way of "about everything that should be an American's right to choose." If he stays on that path, then so will Bondi, his fast friend throughout the presidential election cycle.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith