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Florida's Amendment 4 Restores Voting Rights For Nearly 1.5 Million Ex-Cons

In Florida, voters passed Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to those with non-violent felony convictions. The new law is a huge win, especially for Floridians who have been convicted of cannabis crimes, since the state qualifies first-time marijuana possession of more than 20 grams (that's less than an ounce) as a felony offense. Arizona is the only other state that treats minor possession as harshly.

"Florida is a national leader in annual marijuana arrests," said Paul Armentano - deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). "Passage of Amendment 4 restores voting privileges to those tens of thousands of Floridians who have been stigmatized by a felony marijuana conviction, and makes it clear that the collateral consequences of a non-violent drug possession conviction should not forever bar one from participating in the democratic process."

Thanks to Amendment 4, now more than one million people will regain their right to vote. According to 2016 estimates from the Sentencing Project, almost 1.5 million people in Florida — or 9.2 percent of Floridian adults — have completed felony sentences, and, aside from those convicted of murder and sex felonies, they can now vote. This is particularly good news for African Americans in Florida, where nearly 18 percent of black people of voting age have been disenfranchised due to felony convictions — and racially disproportionate policing.

In the future, the ramifications of Amendment 4's passage may bode well for Florida's left-leaning interests. In the notorious swing state, the influx of new voters could tip any election, and would even have tipped Tuesday's, had the Amendment been in place earlier. In fact, these now re-enfranchised voters could have decided the tight gubernatorial race between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis.

Even so, the expanded composition of Florida's electorate could have national ramifications in future elections, as well as in efforts to backtrack on the Drug War and federal cannabis prohibition. And at least in Florida, these new voters could also influence the state's own cannabis policy, which currently goes no further than medical marijuana.

The War on Drugs has disenfranchised vast numbers of Floridians, says Jag Davies - director of communications strategy at the Drug Policy Alliance. "Hopefully we'll look back at Amendment 4 as the beginning of the end of a dark era for democracy in Florida," he said. "And as an impetus for establishing new drug policies grounded in health and human rights, in Florida and beyond."


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