John Morgan, the chairman for United for Care, is once again pulling out his hefty checkbook for the ongoing push to get medical marijuana legalized in Florida. On Thursday, Morgan, who works as an attorney in Orlando, announced that he will be matching all future donations to United For Care 9-to-1 as a way to take the group's petition gathering process up a notch. That means if someone donates $10, Morgan will match it with $90.
The medical marijuana advocates need to collect about 500,000 more petitions before December 31st in order to meet the deadline to make the 2016 ballot.
“I started doing this because of my brother and father," Morgan said in a statement via United For Care. "During his last days, my father was able to find relief with medical marijuana. My brother, Tim, is a hardworking family man who should not have to suffer or live like a criminal. Like the majority of voters in Florida, I want sick and suffering patients like my brother to have the option to legally use medical marijuana. Over the past two years, I’ve met so many people across our state that also need safe, legal access to medical marijuana. We are going to make sure that happens.”
Morgan, who has been the group's biggest donor, gave $2.8 million of his own money last year to help the cause. He also 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. People were also hired part-time to gather petition signatures for the initiative across the state.
Last November, during the gubernatorial race, the medical marijuana initiative ultimately fell 2 percentage points short of passing, even though more people voted for the legalization of medical marijuana than they did for Rick Scott's reelection.
Morgan and United for Care are banking on 2016 — when more people are expected to hit the polls to vote for a new president — to be the moment when the initiative finally passes.
It was Morgan's deep pockets that helped kick off this second drive for the initiative, when he signed over a $150,000 check to United For Care. This was based off Morgan's earlier promise that he would match every dollar donated to United for Care to get the medical marijuana initiative back on the ballot on 2016.
"We're going to win," Morgan said in June. "With my check and your checks, we can do this together."
Now, with the deadline looming, Morgan is upping the ante, promising to give 9-to-1 for every donation.
“We are honored to have the backing of a man who is so compassionate and tenacious," United for Care's campaign manager, Ben Pollara, says. "It’s going to be tough, but I still think we can make the ballot before the end of the year."
As Morgan shared in his statement, the push to legalize medical marijuana is personal for him. His father and brother both suffered from cancer and injuries and found relief in marijuana for medicinal purposes. Morgan's brother, Tim, suffered a spinal injury. Confined to a wheelchair and dealing with the many physical pains and ailments that come with his impairment, Tim uses medical cannabis for relief.
"As soon as I smoked that Afghani, it was instantaneous release," Tim Morgan told New Times last year. "It was like taking a shot of tequila — that warm feeling — and it just relaxed everything down through my legs."
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C.
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