Governor DeSantis Shuts Down $200 Million Disney Marijuana Bill

in Walt Disney World

Governor Ron DeSantis smiling widely

Credit: DeSantis

Governor Ron DeSantis has made it clear that he is shutting down the controversial upcoming constitutional amendment that would make marijuana legal in Florida, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars of tax dollars that it will bring in from Disney tourists.

Ron DeSantis waving with a smile, superimposed over an image of the colorful entrance to walt disney world, suggests a greeting or a celebratory moment at the renowned theme park.
Credit: Inside The Magic

At this point, the ongoing drama between Governor DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company is well-known and seemingly never-ending. For most of 2023, the far-right politician and the Mouse were locked in a series of mutual overlapping lawsuits over Disney’s First Amendment rights to express political stances and DeSantis’s Parental Rights in Education Act, better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

For months, DeSantis and Disney exchanged harsh words in public, which included accusations of the media company being “one of the greatest examples of corporate cronyism in modern American history” and the governor’s Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board of supervisors being a hotbed of inside dealing and incompetence.

Related: Ron DeSantis to Ban Disney Cast Members From Drinking Water

Despite all the bad blood, DeSantis and Disney unexpectedly announced a settlement of legal issues surrounding the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, which the governor had dissolved in alleged retaliation against the Walt Disney World Resort. While the former presidential candidate is still taking some not-so-subtle jabs at the Mouse in the press, it seems that things have settled down at least a little bit.

DeSantis speaking with a Disney castle in the background.
Credit: Inside the Magic

But maybe they haven’t! Governor DeSantis was widely criticized for spending most of the last year campaigning for the presidency in other states and neglecting matters in Florida, and he seems to have taken it to heart. The politician is currently signing bill after bill into law to aid the state (and, if we speak cynically, repair his damaged reputation), including authorizing billions of dollars to upgrade the I-4 Highway around the Walt Disney World Resort.

But there’s one thing that Ron DeSantis does not approve of, and that’s recreational marijuana. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court voted (on a 5-2 basis) to allow voters to decide whether possession of marijuana for personal use would be made legal, in addition to the growing and selling of medical marijuana. This would require an amendment to Florida’s Constitution and will be voted on by Floridians on November 5 as Florida Amendment 3 (the Marijuana Legalization Initiative).

Ron DeSantis with fireworks at Walt Disney World
Credit: Inside the Magic

The text of the proposed marijuana amendment summary states it would:

Allows adults 21 years or older to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise; allows Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, and other state licensed entities, to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories. Applies to Florida law; does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law. Establishes possession limits for personal use. Allows consistent legislation. Defines terms. Provides effective date.

Ron DeSantis has made much of his political reputation on conservative lines, so it is not surprising that he would come out against the legalization of recreational marijuana. According to the governor (per News4Jax), it will stink up the state to allow people to possess marijuana for non-medical reasons. He said, “It’s basically a license to have it anywhere you want. No time, place, and manner restrictions. This state will start to smell like marijuana in our cities and towns, it will reduce the quality of life.”

Governor DeSantis is accurate that making something legal to own is de facto the ability to “have it,” which probably should go without saying. He also complained that Florida already seems to have enough marijuana, saying, “I go to every part of Florida, not just South Florida, I see marijuana stores. We have medical marijuana in this state that has been approved, and I implemented it. They hadn’t implemented it before I became governor. I implemented it and satisfied the intent, but do we really need to do more with that? Do we want to have more marijuana in our communities? I don’t think it’ll work out well, but it is a very, very broad amendment.”

Ron DeSantis superimposed over Cinderella's castle
Credit: DeSantis/Disney

As DeSantis noted, it is somewhat ironic that he is coming out against the amendment, given that the very first bill he signed into law as chief executive of Florida was for the legalization of medical marijuana. It might be worth mentioning that the marijuana law he signed was developed under lobbying by Trulieve, Inc., a major legal marijuana company, and a major DeSantis political donor named Jason Pirozzolo (per CNN). For what it’s worth, according to Pirozzolo attorney, David Haas, the donor has “never discussed marijuana legislation with Ron DeSantis. Any allegation or inference that any such discussions occurred is categorically false.”

Regardless of all of that, Governor DeSantis is currently very much against recreational marijuana. If more than 60% of Florida voters approve it, it very well might not be up to him.

Pro-marijuana advocates have been pushing against remarks by Governor DeSantis by referencing the sheer amount of tax revenue that Disney World and other tourist locations bring in, including Trulieve Cannabis Corp. Trulieve has underwritten the $40 million initiative to get the bill to voters and estimated that it could bring in some $200 million of dollars to Florida, largely by bringing in tourists.

A bustling night-time scene at a theme park with visitors strolling down the main street, lit by the glow of ambient lighting, with a fairy tale castle illuminated in the background, creating a magical atmosphere.
Credit: Inside the Magic

Related: Bob Iger and Ron DeSantis To Build a New Disney World

Speaking of the revenue, Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said (per Clickorlando), “It’s important to realize medical right now isn’t taxed at all. [There are] 21 million people in the state of Florida. [There are] 138 million annual tourists, so we think this is going to be a boom for the state and tax revenue that can be reinvested into our local communities.”

The bulk of those annual tourists go directly to the Walt Disney World Resort, which brings in close to 60 million visitors every single year. While a company like Trulieve isn’t saying directly that people will come to Disney World and buy marijuana on the way, it is certainly linking the two.

If the Florida constitutional amendment passes, the state will join Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Washington D.C., California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Michigan, Vermont, Illinois, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Missouri, Delaware, Minnesota, and Ohio. If passed, recreational marijuana will be made available to those 21 and over only.

What do you think of the recreational marijuana bill? Should people be able to be high at Disney World? Tell us in the comments below!

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