Drug Free Florida, the group that is putting on the full-court press to get Floridians to vote against medical marijuana, has been active in getting its message out, particularly with videos and with big-time donors coming from the woodwork to finance the cause.
But as much as the group wants to "educate" the state on the supposed dangers of medical marijuana, it sure has surrounded itself with what United for Care Campaign Manager Ben Pollara calls "questionable characters."
Most notable is the recent $2.5 million donation from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
"The Anti-Amendment 2 movement is now showing its true face," Pollara says. "Now more than ever, the people behind Drug Free Florida lack any moral standing to pronounce themselves on anything related to the health and well-being of Floridians."
From a homophobe to a bigot, Drug Free Florida has been rallying major support from some, let's call em dubious folks.
Here are the top five you should know about:
5. Florida Sheriffs Association The FSA is the big name behind the Drug Free Florida campaign, with an organized movement to try and "educate" Floridians on the dangers of medical marijuana being legalized.
They're taking old talking points and pushing the dubious factoid that the "Food and Drug Administration continues to reaffirm that there is no medical benefit provided by smoking marijuana."
Their biggest move so far has been to release an ad called "Devil in the Details" that claims that Amendment 2 is fraught with legal loopholes and language that would allow pot to be smoked and sold on the streets willy-nilly.
These supposed "loopholes" have been addressed by the Florida Supreme Court, which has ruled that the amendment will be used only in cases of debilitating illness.
4. Sarah Bascom Bascom is a Florida-based lobbyist, most notable for the Dosal Tobacco Corp.
3. Mel Sembler Sembler is a Republican fundraiser and the former ambassador to Italy under George W. Bush. He's most noted for cofounding Straight Inc. with his wife.
Straight Inc. was a drug rehab program for youth that had to shut down after accusations of abuse and false imprisonment.
A former member of Straight sued the group for allegedly being held against his will and was awarded $220,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
In 1993, an audit on Straight suggested that Florida officials renewed the license of the drug treatment center due to pressure from state senators and from Sembler himself.
Sembler then founded Drug Free Florida with his wife, Betty.
2. Carlton Turner Former Ronald Reagan drug czar Carlton E. Turner made a name for himself for coming up with the "Just Say No" campaign that bombarded radio, TV, and comic books back in the 1980s, warning kids of the dangers of drugs. He's also known for claiming that marijuana is not only a gateway drug to other illegal substances but apparently also the gateway drug to AIDS.
"Marijuana leads to homosexuality, the breakdown of the immune system, and ultimately, AIDS," Turner famously said in 1986.
In a recent interview with Fox Business, Turner claimed that marijuana impairs the immune system and that weed has, as he puts it, "more cancer-causing compounds than cigarettes."
As the group's chair, Turner has been tasked with getting funding for Drug Free Florida. He found a pretty big donor in....
1. Sheldon Adelson With a net worth of $37 billion, Adelson, who has been a big-time contributor to conservative campaigns, is chairman and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which runs the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas. And he recently dipped into his deep pockets to give Drug Free Florida $2.5 million.
He has also funded drug addiction clinics in Nevada and Israel and believes pot to be a gateway drug. A casino owner funding addiction clinics is not ironic at all.
But Adelson is also known for being a bigot.
He is widely known for his anti-Palestine stance. He once suggested that the U.S. should drop an "atomic weapon... in the middle of the [Negev]" and that the Palestinians are an "invented people."
Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph.
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