Pro-Pot Group Gets $1 Million Boost In Legalized Marijuana Fight

October 2, 2016

Proponents of a constitutional amendment that would broadly legalize medical marijuana in Florida received a $1 million boost this week from a political committee focused on similar initiatives in other states.

The committee, New Approach, is tied to the family of the late philanthropist Peter Lewis, the former head of Progressive Insurance who died in 2013 and who bankrolled medical-marijuana proposals in Washington and Massachusetts. New Approach also was a major contributor to an Oregon initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in 2014.

It’s the largest single contribution received by supporters of Amendment 2 and comes as the battle over the constitutional question heats up in advance of the Nov. 8 election. As another sign of the growing battle, a powerful state senator and a former Florida Supreme Court justice appeared at a news conference Friday to oppose the ballot initiative.

“We are obviously very pleased to receive such a generous donation (from New Approach). It’s going to be put to good use very quickly, making sure that our message is on television across the state and that Floridians understand this is about putting medical decisions back in the hands of doctors and patients and out of the hands of politicians,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager of People United for Medical Marijuana, also known as United for Care.

Pollara is hoping to parlay the contribution from New Approach into more financial support.

“It’s going to be a big acknowledgment to our existing donor base of 8,000 people that we’re almost to the finish line and we’re getting substantial support. I think it will be a huge boon for our fundraising,” Pollara said Friday.

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan and his law firm have been the major financial backers of Amendment 2, which mirrors a similar proposal that voters narrowly rejected two years ago. So far this year, Morgan and his firm have contributed more than $2.6 million to People United for Medical Marijuana, which he also chairs.

Morgan is also paying for radio ads running statewide urging voters to support the amendment. Exactly how much he has spent on the ads has not yet been reported, and Morgan said he doesn’t know what the total will be.

“I’m spending a fortune right now,” Morgan said in a telephone interview Thursday evening. “I don’t know what the number will be until the month’s over. I’ve done a dangerous thing — I’ve given a blank check to the radio stations.”

This week’s contribution from New Approach came as the Drug Free Florida Committee — which played a key role in defeating the 2014 amendment — spent more than $1.8 million during the first three weeks of September to fight the initiative, with most of the money going to advertising.

Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson contributed $1 million this month to the Drug Free Florida Committee, which also received $800,000 in July from the Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust. The trust, associated with the daughter of Publix Super Markets founder George Jenkins, also contributed $540,000 in 2014 to the Drug Free Florida Committee.

Tampa Bay developer Mel Sembler has also contributed $1 million this year to try to defeat the proposal. Developer Al Hoffman also contributed $25,000 to oppose the amendment.

On Friday, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who opposes the amendment, told reporters he was underwriting a television ad in the Tampa Bay area urging his constituents to vote “no” on the ballot proposal. Latvala, the incoming Senate appropriations chairman, appeared at a news conference in Tallahassee with former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell.

Latvala, who estimated the cost of the ad at about $100,000, acknowledged that recent polls have showed Florida voters overwhelmingly back legalizing medical marijuana.

“My position is probably upside down at this point,” he said.

Latvala two years ago opposed a measure that legalized non-euphoric medical marijuana for people with chronic muscle spasms, epilepsy or cancer. That law, which was expanded this year to include full-strength marijuana for terminally ill patients, was aimed at helping children with severe forms of epilepsy. Parents argued the low-THC treatment can dramatically reduce or eliminate life-threatening seizures.

“I have seen the effects that marijuana has on individuals,” Latvala said. “I’m a moderate on many issues. … But not on this one.”

Five weeks before the general election, Amendment 2 has received less attention than the marijuana issue got during the 2014 election season.

One of the highest-profile opponents of the 2014 measure — the Florida Sheriffs Association — has stayed on the sidelines thus far, opting not to take a position on the revamped proposal.

Two years ago, Morgan used a bus tour to promote the marijuana initiative to college students.

In one of many appearances across the state, the Orlando lawyer was caught on tape delivering a boozy, expletive-laced monologue to what appears to be a crowd of young supporters at a bar after a rally in the Lakeland area.

“I’ve decided that less of me is more. I want the focus to be on the issue, not on me,” Morgan said of this year’s campaign.


20 Responses to “Pro-Pot Group Gets $1 Million Boost In Legalized Marijuana Fight”

  1. Nod on October 5th, 2016 9:19 pm

    I Do not drink or smoke or abuse drugs legal or illegal. I do not need a crutch. Live life to the fullest get high on life.

  2. Pushinpills on October 5th, 2016 4:44 pm

    What a shame we must kill our liver taking drugs from Doctor when using a natural herb is available. The drug, alcohol and tabacco companies don’t want to lose the big profits they make yet all these substances are abused and cause greater harm than a bowl of cannibas. Wake up people! Hippies, the 60’s, cool dude are over. No normal person these days thinks like that. Keep your stinking cigarette smoke away from me..second hand smoke like that still kills. I remember nothing from drinking, but a cannibas cigarette keeps my memory intact. YES and always my vote.

  3. nod on October 4th, 2016 10:15 am

    Vote no to dope. If it passes stay away from me I am allergic to the rotten stink of pot. It makes me puke. I guess I will have some way avoid to you intelligent people that use mind altering drugs. It will be like the 60’s with the hippies walking around in a daze saying “cool dude.” If it passes it passes, enjoy your life if you can rember it.

  4. molinoman on October 4th, 2016 5:45 am

    @Matchbox, Thank you. I am a proud member of NORML and United for Care. I have also been involved and had a hand in through donations, fund raising and advocacy to make medical marijuana legal in every single state it is now currently legal in. I do not even use marijuana because it violates my religious conviction per Romans 13:1-5. The issue is Florida is full of ultra conservatives and transplanted retirees from other states that want to keep Florida repressed and uneducated on the topic of marijuana (dope, drugs, devil’s lettuce to them). When in fact we must be thinking about the future health of our state and country. We have been a slave to big pharm for far too long. It is high time (excuse the pun) that we unshackle ourselves from corporate pharmaceuticals and make something legal that works with little to no withdrawals, health risks or addiction issues and completely cheap to produce. We live in a state/country that murders children by the hundreds every month yet heaven forbid someone terminally ill gets a little high from the euphoric side effects of marijuana. How dare these ill people have a few hours of feeling good! It is time to make a change people and get out of the stone ages. Our children’s children children are going to look back at this moment in our country and think we were totally barbaric in our ideals and medical practices. Think about it.

    Vote YES on 2!

  5. Matchbox on October 4th, 2016 1:22 am

    @molinoman..couldn’t have said it better myself….someone that has no idea about marijuana shouldn’t be able to speak on it…just plain ignorant….smoking me one right now..been a really bad pain day

  6. Denise Hayes on October 3rd, 2016 11:14 pm

    Making it legal will not increase the use of weed! Look at how much money was and is being spent to combat illegal drugs. Has it changed anything? NO! Govt is always sticking their nose where it shouldnt be. all they’re worried about is how to get the biggest share of the profits. I personally know people who could benefit from this. Do they (govt) not realize that there are so many more people addicted to legal pain killers than those who smoke weed. Our govt will never be able to get rid of illegal drugs. NEVER!

  7. molinoman on October 3rd, 2016 9:37 pm

    @Nod, it is already in pill form and legally prescribed in Florida, it is called Marinol. The problem is when you convert it to pill form you destroy many other chemicals in the plant that are beneficial or you synthesize the drug all together and again it does not have the same properties or benefits as the raw material. So what if you smoke it? You can also eat it, you can also make it a tincture and drink it. So your only issue is someone smoking it? If so why do you care how someone has to taken it? It is no different than making a legal medicine into a vapor and someone inhaling it because they can not swallow. just sounds to me like you are uneducated, biased and probably brainwashed from years of propaganda perpetrated by a false report Nixon used to start the war on drugs. Or if you’re even older the propaganda perpetrated by the Woman’s Christian Coalition once prohibition was a failure. I only hope one day you or a loves one does not get cancer or a terminal illness marijuana could help. Don’t think about yourself, think about the terminally ill people out there this could help without them being addicted and suffering more with legal prescribed pain medications.

    Vote YES on 2!

  8. C-5 Guy on October 3rd, 2016 10:32 am

    As a matter of personal freedom I will vote YES on amendment 2.

    What you do in the privacy of your own home, that harms no one is no one else business. We have too many restrictions on our personal liberties as it is.

    Why should otherwise law abiding citizens become another revenue stream for the FOR PROFIT PRISON SYSTEM?

  9. Nod on October 3rd, 2016 10:02 am

    Matchbox, if it is used only for real medical purposes then make it a pill to take not a weed to smoke to get high.

  10. Man of God on October 3rd, 2016 8:58 am

    God created all herds for medicine, God knows best, and not the doctor. God heals and the doctor practice.

  11. Vic Himler on October 3rd, 2016 8:54 am

    Whiskey and Pharmaceutical companies don’t like competition !
    I am voting yes because I am not ignorant!

  12. That Guy on October 3rd, 2016 8:19 am

    I dont smoke anything but I say go ahead and make it legal.

  13. chris in brandon on October 3rd, 2016 5:50 am

    If it passes, it will hurt the drug company’s profits. A good reason to vote yes.

  14. Matchbox on October 3rd, 2016 4:18 am

    First of all this will not increase smoking in potheads…they smoke as much as they want…second of all if any one of you suffered from a chronic illness or epilepsy or your children did you would certainly be singing a different tune I promise you on that one….i would rather have marijuana than pain pills any day….so unless you understand it you shouldn’t have an opinion on it

  15. molinoman on October 3rd, 2016 12:28 am

    @Nod, Potheads will get pot regardless if you vote yes or no.
    @Wondering, People who smoke pot on welfare or not will get pot and if they’re on welfare you’re still paying for it even now.

    This is for honest people who have medical conditions that this plant will benefit. People on cancer treatments, seizures, terminal illness in great pain, and other TERMINAL illness. This is not a free pass for just anyone who has a minor back ache or blurry eye to get, like it is in California. These is a very specific group of illnesses that qualify. This being passed will be a blessing for those who want to be within the law and that this great plant will help. Don’t be such prudes and only thinking about the negative and yourselves. I promise you this won’t be any money out of your pocket that isn’t already out of your pocket and I am sure you won’t lose sleep over it.

    VOTE YES ON 2!!

  16. Melodies4us on October 2nd, 2016 8:24 pm

    What a gorgeous bud. I personally think people need to chill and quit being a bunch of control freaks. Le bon roule.

  17. Wondering on October 2nd, 2016 6:07 pm

    My only question is whether we, as tax payers, will have to pay for ‘low income’ welfare types who can’t afford it obtain it. If that’s the case, I am out.

  18. Nwo on October 2nd, 2016 5:12 pm


  19. Cuz (Danny Hall) on October 2nd, 2016 12:53 pm

    NO To POT , Please . . . I’m voting NO.

  20. Nod on October 2nd, 2016 8:39 am

    I truly believe than this will only increase the use of pot for potheads. One more legally abused drug on the market. I will vote against it. Only in america.

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