The man formerly known as the Black Tuna gang leader, a South Florida pot smuggler featured in the 2011 documentary Square Grouper, will spearhead a Publix boycott this Saturday in support of the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2.
Robert Platshorn, founder of a locally based nonprofit the Silver Tour, whose mission is to educate seniors on the benefits of medical marijuana, says the demonstration he's organized is meant to oppose Publix heiress Carol Jenkins Barnett, who recently donated $800,000 to fight the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative.
"This is a one-day picket effort meant to send a financially driven message to Publix," said Platshorn. "We aren't trying to get people to boycott Publix, but if we can slow the traffic on a busy day for a few hours, maybe we'll get their attention and possibly open a dialogue."
On Saturday, August 13, members representing three activist organizations, including the Silver Tour, Norml of Florida, and Regulate Florida, will join forces to picket several of the state's busiest Publix stores, including in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
Platshorn believes the one-day boycotts — currently slated to take place at four confirmed Florida Publix locations in Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, and the main event planned for Plantation — will cost the supermarket chain more than the $800,000. Barnett's trust has donated to the lobbying group fighting the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida.
Currently on the November 8 ballot, a "yes" vote for Amendment 2 would support legalizing medical marijuana for individuals with specific debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed state physician. If passed, it would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical conditions including HIV, cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Without it, the only Floridians who will have access to medical marijuana continue to be children with severe epilepsy or terminal cancer patients permitted to use marijuana under an "experimental drugs" program.
Last month, Publix spokesperson Maria Brous told New Times the donation was not officially connected to Publix but instead should be viewed as a personal donation.
"Publix has not made a contribution in support of or in opposition to Amendment 2," Brous said via email. "The donation made by Carol Jenkins Barnett was a personal donation and not one made by the company."
Jenkins Barnett's trust first donated more than $500,000 in 2014, when a similar amendment failed. According to Forbes, the daughter of Publix founder George Jenkins is worth $1.8 billion and currently owns under 5 percent of the supermarket chain. She stepped down from the company's board of directors in June, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Platshorn, who is also the director for Norml of Florida (an advocacy group whose mission is to move public opinion to help legalize marijuana), says he chose to target Publix for its implied support for Jenkins Barnett's opposition of Amendment 2.
Lakeland-based Publix is considered the largest grocery chain in the state, accounting for nearly half of all Florida grocery sales, each with in-store pharmacies. It is argued that medical marijuana access could negatively impact the chain's bottom line, with reports like this recent study showing that states with medical cannabis access have doctors prescribing fewer painkillers and common drug prescriptions annually.
"At this time, Publix has since divorced from [Jenkins Barnett's stance on Amendment 2], which leaves people wondering how the chain itself feels about cannabis," said Platshorn.
Platshorn was incarcerated in 1980 for his role in South Florida pot smuggling in the 1970s and '80s. In 2008, he was released after serving 28 years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Now, he believes state doctors should be able to prescribe cannabis for a host of ailments that chronically plague seniors.
"Yes, Publix is a great chain. Most Floridians, including myself, love to shop there," adds Platshorn. "But they also have to realize that medical marijuana is an important medicine, especially for the state's huge senior population. If they fail to get the message, we will be back — again and again."
Picket Publix. 10 a.m. Saturday, August 13, at 1181 S. University Dr., Plantation and 375 S. Rosemary Ave., West Palm Beach. Visit facebook.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.