Republicans jump into Florida campaign against medical marijuana

TALLAHASSEE Fla. Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:44pm EDT

A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, November 27, 2012.  REUTERS/Anthony Bolante

A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, November 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Anthony Bolante

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TALLAHASSEE Fla. (Reuters) - The stakes are getting higher - politically and financially - in Florida's heated campaign over a November referendum to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana.

The latest financial reports by the two main groups fighting the legalization of medical marijuana show a total of more than $7.7 million has been raised to oppose the constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Proponents of the referendum got a head start with Orlando personal injury attorney John Morgan providing most of the $5 million spent so far by People United for Medical Marijuana, though much of that was devoted to gathering and validating voter petitions and defending the ballot language in court.

Deep-pocketed Republicans have since jumped into the battle. The Drug Free Florida campaign, which opposes the amendment, has raised $2.7 million, including a $2.5 million contribution from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican donor.

This week, the non-partisan Florida Sheriffs Association began a separate "educational campaign" against the amendment.

Polls show a majority of Floridians support medical marijuana legalization but constitutional amendments need a 60 percent majority in order to pass.

    "I'm not 100 percent sure it's a slam dunk," said University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus. "We're starting to see a lot more attention to some of the unintended consequences (of marijuana legalization) that have happened in Colorado, the negative side of it."

    The Florida amendment is also enmeshed in the hot race for governor. Republican Governor Rick Scott opposes it, while former Governor Charlie Crist, who is seeking to return to the office as a Democrat, supports it.

   MacManus said constitutional amendment campaigns sometimes draw big money - trial lawyers and doctors have had big ballot battles over medical malpractice, and casino interests bankrolled some failed initiatives - but the marijuana fight figures to cost more than any previous issues election.

Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz recently said the amendment is too broadly drafted, prompting a stinging rebuke from Morgan, a major party donor who called for her removal as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

The Florida legislature last month passed a bill that would legalize but strictly limit the distribution of a noneuphoric strain of marijuana believed to reduce epileptic seizures. Scott has said he will sign it into law.

November's referendum is a broader proposal that would allow physicians to recommend the regular form of marijuana to people with debilitating ailments.

(Editing by David Adams and Will Dunham)

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Comments (10)
GlennatAOL wrote:
“This week, the non-partisan Florida Sheriffs Association began a separate “educational campaign” against the amendment.”

Non-partisan, against and “educational campaign.

How can you have a partisan non-partisan group using “education” to be against something?


Jun 11, 2014 6:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
claygooding wrote:
No surprises on the Republican stance,,they helped build the marijuana prohibition machine and they don’t wan’t the longest playing corporate profit protection scam the US government has done to it’s own citizens to end.
They are the major investors in the spinoff industries created by marijuana prohibition,privatized prisons,rehab centers and drug screening companies being their favorites.

Jun 11, 2014 6:57pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
GoBreaux wrote:
Applaud the citizens in 22 states for recognizing the medicinal value of cannabis.

Thank you Colorado for allowing adults access to cannabis tested for impurities from a safe secure outlet while keeping money stateside.

75 Years of paranoia, propaganda, and prohibition has warped many innocent ignorant minds.

You don’t think big-pharma has anything to do with the fighting medicinal cannabis in Florida? Think again, their elderly population consumes a lot of scripts.

Citizens have had enough as their vote will show that.

This is coming from a staunch republican that does not use medicinal cannabis but consumes highly nutritional hemp seed on a daily basis since the DEA allowed it in 2004.

Jun 12, 2014 12:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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