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Tampabay.com: Crist admits smoking pot; won’t back easing drug laws

Crist admits smoking pot; won’t back easing drug laws


TALLAHASSEE — Even in light of a growing prison population and a
shrinking budget, Gov. Charlie Crist said he doesn’t support changing
Florida’s drug laws — despite, he said, smoking marijuana himself at
one time.

State officials estimate Florida’s prisons will swell to 100,000
inmates by year’s end, with about 20 percent serving sentences for
nonviolent drug offenses. Each prisoner costs more than $19,000 a year
to incarcerate, and at the current pace, Florida will have to build two
prisons a year through 2013 to keep up.

Some lawmakers are questioning the state’s strategy toward nonviolent
drug offenders, who have been convicted of crimes ranging from
possession to drug trafficking. But they’re not likely to gain the
support of Crist, who acknowledges he smoked marijuana when he was
younger.

"I feel that our laws are good in Florida. They were thoughtfully put
in place. And I know there is a budget crunch. But I don’t want to
sacrifice public safety," Crist said.

State Sen. Victor Crist — no relation to the governor — said the
state’s drug laws are based on outdated thinking. "That’s the old way:
Throw a drug addict in jail. But now we know treatment works; it’s
better and it’s cheaper," said Crist, R-Tampa. "If you’re a violent
criminal, you belong in a cell. If you’re a drug addict, you belong in
a rehab program."

The governor said his proposed budget includes $28-million for
substance abuse treatment and he thinks the state’s drug laws need
"balance."

No lawmaker has filed a bill seeking to decriminalize drug use. But
both legislative chambers are considering measures that would release
some inmates early or into work-release programs, and establish a
commission to review mandatory-minimum sentencing.