Orlando-based attorney and pro-medical marijuana advocate John Morgan has put $2.8 million into the effort to get the legalization of medical marijuana on the Florida ballot come November.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that Morgan has given the folks at United for Care a $909,000 loan to advance the effort.
Morgan and United for Care have until February 1 to turn in 700,000 signatures to force a vote in November, and the lawyer is pushing hard and opening up his wallet as the deadline draws nearer.
Morgan has reportedly paid PCI Consultants Inc., a California-based signature gathering firm, $2 million to help bombard the state with ads talking up the benefits of medical marijuana, as well as pay people to gather signatures for petitions across Florida.
The aggressive push is twofold. First, there's the looming deadline. The organization set a goal to get 1 million signatures to be sure to hit the 700,000 mark.
"Most times with petition drives, you get people who may have signed a petition twice or may not be a registered voter," Ben Pollara, campaign director for United for Care, told New Times.
This drive includes getting signatures from people in the state's Panhandle and southwest Florida. Last week, the group announced a plan to hire people to hit the streets with petitions, paying them $3 per signature.
So far, the group has officially filed over 375,000.
The other part of the fight is to get the message out there in the face of GOP leaders looking to derail the drive as the Florida Supreme Court weighs in on whether the ballot's language is legal.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has accused United for Care of "hiding the ball," arguing that the true language of the amendment "would allow marijuana in limitless situations" and that it would give doctors the power to "approve marijuana for seemingly any reason to seemingly any person [of any age] -- including those without any 'debilitating disease.'"
Bills to legalize pot in Florida have been constantly shot down over the years.
Last March, Florida state Sen. Jeff Clemens introduced a bill that would allow patients with certain qualifying medical conditions to privately and legally possess medical marijuana. He too brought up compassion in an interview with New Times.
"When a patient comes into your office and tells you all the meds that they're taking don't work, don't relieve their suffering but marijuana does," Clemens said, "it's hard to look at that person in the eye and not do something about it. It's about compassion."
Yet medical marijuana will be the hot-button issue in the coming race for the governor's seat.
And GOPers are admitting that it's an issue that could potentially give whoever is the Democratic nominee (i.e., Charlie Crist) a huge boost from young voters.
"It's an issue that the Democrats can use to pump up the youth vote," Alex Patton, a Republican political consultant and pollster based in Gainesville, Florida, told Bloomburg this week. "The politics of it are dangerous for the GOP."
And poll after poll is showing that the majority of Floridians approve of legalizing pot for medical reasons, and as United for Care's work has shown, the signatures are proof of that.
For once, it looks like big-money is pushing for the right thing. And Morgan is obviously committed to seeing this thing pushed through.
Morgan's father and brother had suffered from cancer and injuries and found relief in marijuana for medicinal purposes. So for him, as it is with many who are advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana, it's a personal issue.
Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph.
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