Florida: Republicans Jump Into Fight Against Medical Marijuana
By Steve Elliott
A recent poll in Florida has shown support for medical marijuana at almost 90 percent. The medicinal cannabis question on the ballot could even affect the gubernatorial race. But in a move of questionable political wisdom, deep-pocketed Republicans have raised more than $7.7 million to fight Amendment 2, a proposal to allow doctors to authorize seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana.
The latest financial reports from the two biggest groups fighting medicinal cannabis in the Sunshine State show that the Drug Free Florida campaign alone has raised $2.7 million, including a single $2.5 million contribution from Las Vegas casino magnate and GOP wheeler dealer Sheldon Adelson, reports Bill Cotterell of Reuters.
Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., is one of the richest men in the world, and not coincidentally, one of the biggest donors to the Republican Party, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post. He spent $150 million supporting GOP candidates in the 2012 elections -- almost all of whom lost.
Joining the Republicans in their anti-pot fight this week was the supposedly "non-partisan" Florida Sheriffs Association, which began sponsoring an inane, almost fact-free "educational campaign" against the medical marijuana amendment.
Constitutional amendments are required to have 60 percent of the vote to pass in Florida. According to political wisdom, an anti-marijuana campaign could chip roughly 20 percent of the pro-marijuana vote away, but with support approaching 90 percent in some polls, that could mean medical marijuana could still pass in November.
Incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott opposes medical marijuana, while former Governor Charlie Crist, a Democrat who wants to return to office, supports it.
Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz muddied the waters recently when she said the amendment is "too broadly drafted," prompting a stinging rebuke from major party donor John Morgan, who called for her removal as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
Michael Czin, national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, was quick to backpedal and smooth feathers, claiming Wasserman Schultz "was speaking as a mom and a member of Congress on her personal concerns on a local issue."
"The DNC has not taken an official position on this ballot initiative," Czin said. "We leave it to the good people of Florida to make that decision."
"That the Congresswoman would stand on the side of an ultraconservative billionaire in opposition to the will of the people and mountains of evidence demonstrating marijuana's medical benefits raises serious questions about her fitness to lead a party that so often emphasizes its commitment to healthcare, civil rights and science," said Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell.
"But this isn't a partisan issue," Angell said. "Polls show overwhelming voter support for medical marijuana across the board, from all parts of the political spectrum."
The Florida Legislature last month passed a CBD-only bill that would legalize cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana that is believed to reduce seizures. Gov. Scott said he will sign it into law.
November's vote will be on an actual medical marijuana law -- the kind designed to really help patients instead of just to make cowardly politicians look good. It would allow physicians to authorize medical marijuana for patients with debilitating illnesses.