The Miami-Dade Democrats have a new chairman and on one hot-button issue, he's got one of the strongest positions in the state: Sen. Dwight Bullard thinks marijuana should be legal not just for medical purposes but for recreational use.
"Marijuana, whether medical or recreational, could be another way of generating revenue in Florida," Bullard tells Riptide. "It has a potential for real positive economic impact with real small business growth."
Bullard, who is currently a state senator for Dade, Hendry, and Monroe counties, was elected last month by the Dade Democrats as chairman after previous chair Annette Taddeo-Goldstein resigned to be Charlie Crist's running mate.
Taddeo-Goldstein nominated Bullard, who was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2008 and later elected into Senate in 2012. Both his parents, Larcenia and Edward Bullard, were also in the state legislature.
Although Bullard is bullish on pot -- a stance he shared with his mother, who pushed for medical marijuana reform in the Senate two years ago after her mother began suffering from Alzheimer's -- the Dade Democrats' new chairman says his biggest priority will be outreach.
"I really want to see a better outreach effort," Bullard says. "I am all about working on the issues that matter most to people and part of that is offering them a calendar that really lets them come out and talk about what we're doing."
Bullard says he also wants to encourage "real job growth." He says the state needs to help find new forms of revenue that will allow for more businesses and ease the burden of the everyday citizen.
And that's where Bullard's pro-marijuana stance comes in. He believes South Florida could be a gold mine for growing and selling marijuana -- not just for medical sufferers, but for casual users, too. This past March, Bullard filed SB 1562, a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.
"If folks could open dispensaries, imagine the kind of economic impact it would have," Bullard says. "Florida has the environment for it, and it's a new form of revenue that we haven't tried yet."
With his new position, Bullard hopes to raise youth engagement. He believes that to build an effect bench, the party needs support of young Democrats ages 18-24. Bullard says it's time to "turn them on to politics."
Bullard will be chairman through the 2016 election cycle, when the party holds its next elections.
"I'm not just giving lip service," Bullard says. "I want to bring to light that Democrats have consistently been doing the work, but we just need the stamp of approval from our everyday citizens."