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Fact-Checking Marijuana Law Claims About Charlie Crist

Credit politifact.com

The race for Florida governor is heating up.

Gov. Rick Scott's likely Democratic challenger Charlie Crist released his first TV ad this week. It's called "Sunshine" -- and its focus is definitely positive.

But mud is being slung in the campaign.

Though, sometimes, it's hard to figure out who is slinging it.

For instance -- a radio ad has been running this week that accuses Crist of being in the pocket of the National Rifle Association -- and that he supported sentencing guidelines that appeared to impact African Americans unfairly.

The group that's running the ads is called Progressive Choice Florida and nobody knows exactly whose side they're on.

"The Bottom line is that because of their tax status, we really don't know who they are exactly," said Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida. "The contact information is a woman out of Baltimore, a business woman. Some people say that they're actually a Republican-funded group that has been attacking Crist ahead of the primary. They claim to be a very liberal group that prefers Nan Rich over Charlie Crist."

Whoever they are, here's what Progressive Choice Florida said about Crist in a radio ad. They claim that he signed "the nation's harshest marijuana laws."

"We rated that mostly false," Gillin said. "In this case there were a couple of laws that Charlie Crist signed (when he was Republican governor of Florida). There was one in 2008 that really cracked down on grow houses. And there was one in 2010 that really restricted what you could sell at head shops where you buy pipes and bongs and things like that.

"But, Florida -- for a very long time -- has had a reputation as a very strict state when it comes to marijuana laws and a lot of those laws were in place before Crist came into office. When it comes down to whether he was in charge of making them the harshest -- even how those are measured as being harsh -- that's not so clear cut so we rated it mostly false."

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Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.After serving two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, Gentry worked for a number of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times), the Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel. She was a Kaiser Foundation Media Fellow in 1994-95 and earned an Master's in Public Administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996. She directed a journalism fellowship program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for four years.Gentry created Health News Florida, an independent non-profit health journalism publication, in 2006, and served as editor until September, 2014, when she became a special correspondent. She and Health News Florida joined WUSF in 2012.
Craig Kopp
Craig Kopp is relatively new to Florida and the Tampa Bay area. The veteran broadcaster and writer spent the majority of his 30 year career in Ohio.
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