john morgan

Florida: Attorney Sues State Regarding Anti-Cannabis Smoking Legislation

Florida Medical Marijuana

House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, the legislator who sponsored the troublesome legislation and insisted on the smoking ban, defends lawmakers’ actions

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

Last Thursday, Orlando attorney John Morgan sued the state of Florida stating the new SB 8A law banning smoking medical cannabis is in violation of Amendment 2, the voter-initiated constitutional amendment that passed last November with 71 percent of the vote.

Medical Marijuana Will Be On Florida Ballot In November


By Derrick Stanley, Hemp News

Voters in Florida will again have an opportunity to legalize medical marijuana this November. Ballot organizers believe that the measure, which almost passed in 2014, will benefit from an increase in voter turnout in a presidential election year.

Growing support for medical marijuana legalization should help the measure pass in 2016. Ben Pollara, organizer of the petition drive for United for Care, said Wednesday "We feel very good that 60 percent plus of Florida voters will finally approve a true medical marijuana law."

The measure nearly passed in 2014, with 57.6percent of voters supporting the initiative; at least a 60 percent voter approval is required in Florida to approve a constitutional amendment.

More then enough voter signatures have already been collected to put the issue on the ballot. As of Wednesday 692,981 certified voter signatures had been collected, nearly 10,000 more than required.

Personal injury lawyer John Morgan is a major supporter and financial backer for the legalization initiative. He cites his brother's success in using marijuana to control muscle spasms as one of his main inspirations behind the campaign. Morgan has spent over $6 million in 2014 and 2016 in pursuit of medical marijuana legalization. He sent a message via e-mail to his supporters Wednesday night, saying "We're back. We're going to win for the patients. BELIEVE!"

Florida Cannabis Act Would Legalize Marijuana, Regulate Like Alcohol


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new drive to legalize recreational marijuana in Florida was launched last week. West Palm Beach attorney Michael Minardi is proposing to regulate marijuana like alcohol.

Minardi's group, Regulate Florida, needs 683,149 valid voter signatures by February 2, 2016, to get the Florida Cannabis Act on the ballot for November 2016, reports Michelle Quesada at ABC Action News. The group is going for a million signatures to make sure.

The proposal would amend the Florida Constitution, making buying marijuana roughly the same as picking up a bottle of liquor at the store, according to Minardi. "We trust people with alcohol; we trust people with tobacco," he said.

As long as you're 21 or older, you should be able to buy and use marijuana responsibly, Minardi said. "These people who are using them [drugs] are responsible adults and they should have the choice to do that," he said.

If approved, the measure would set a deadline of July 2017 for Florida state government to begin licensing and regulating commercial marijuana growers, processors and retailers, reports Michael Pollick at the Miami Herald Tribune.

Education can change people's perspectives, Minardi said, and the new law would help clear out jails.

Florida: Poll Shows Medical Marijuana In Trouble


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new poll shows that Amendment 2, the Florida ballot measure that would amend the state Constitution to allow medical marijuana, falling short at the polls next month.

Even supporters acknowledged on Thursday that the drive for medicinal cannabis in the Sunshine State is struggling in the face of well-funded conservative opposition, reports Bill Cotterell at Reuters.

After a two-week barrage of attack ads, the poll showed just 48 percent of Florida voters supporting the amendment to allow doctors to authorize cannabis for medicinal purposes. As a constitutional amendment, the measure needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.

The University of Florida Poll found 44 percent of voters were opposed to medical marijuana, with just 7 percent undecided.

"It's like a cliche in political races, but we're at a point when the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day," said Ben Pollara, who runs United For Care, the group behind Amendment 2.

Florida: Benefactor Donates $4 Million More To Florida's Medical Marijuana Fight


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

John Morgan, the man who has led the fight to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, has donated $4 million more of his own money to the campaign.

Morgan is pushing to pass Amendment 2, and he says it's for his dad, his brother, and others who may suffer from debilitating diseases, reports Kendra Conlon at WTSP.

"It's all frivolous until it happens to you," John's brother Tim Morgan said. Tim broke his back in 1977 in a lifeguarding accident; he's now quadriplegic, with excruciating pain that has only gotten worse over the decades.

"I had cancer in 2003 and a pacemaker put in two years ago," said Tim, who added that medical marijuana gets him through the day as director of Morgan and Morgan. "You just break out in a sweat for no reason; you smoke pot and it stops. Why? I don't know; I don't care. It works."

"With my dad, he was dying from emphysema," John Morgan said. "It gave him appetite on Day 1, and it took away his anxiety."

If Amendment 2 passes with 60 percent or more of the vote (as a constitutional amendment, it needs more than a simple majority), it would allow doctors to authorize patients to use medical marijuana, with the state regulating production and distribution.

"I have never met one person -- because there's none -- who has ever died from a marijuana overdose, ever," John said. "It's so simple and so easy, and that's why I think it's going to pass."

Florida: Republicans Jump Into Fight Against Medical Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

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.

Florida: 'Vote No On 2' Push Against Medical Marijuana Campaign Begins


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Amendment No. 2, the medical marijuana question on Florida's ballot for the November general election, is supported by more than 80 percent of Sunshine State residents, according to the latest polls. But a new group, the Vote No On 2 campaign, has launched a website and video denouncing the amendment as legalizing weed for "money for dope dealers."

The organization claims that the amendment would allow unrestricted sale and use of cannabis by anyone, even minors, in a virtually unregulated setting like that in California, reports William March at The Tampa Tribune.

The group's web video uses scenes from the Venice Beach boardwalk, where marijuana dispensaries and storefront doctors allow people to get authorized and buy medical marijuana within minutes.

But backers of Amendment 2 deny these claims, saying the amendment is designed to allow only legitimate medical use under rules set up by the Florida Health Department and Legislature.

The video also injects racial undertones into the debate, according to state Senator Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens), who said last week that its use of a black former drug dealer to stoke fears of unregulated marijuana sales is fear-mongering.

Florida: Governor Says He Would Sign CBD-Only Bill Allowing Marijuana Derivative


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida Governor Rick Scott, running for reelection in November, on Thursday said he would sign legislation allowing a non-psychoactive medical marijuana extract low in THC but high in CBD to treat children and other patients suffering from seizures.

Despite his firm opposition to an actual medical marijuana law, Gov. Scott said he would sign the so-called Charlotte's Web bill, which passed the Republican-controlled House with bipartisan support on Thursday, reports Andrew Perez at The Huffington Post.

Charlotte's Web is one of many high-CBD strains of marijuana, but in a development that undoubtedly makes the Stanley Brothers of Colorado very happy (and quite rich), it seems to be the one that gets all the media attention. Ill-informed state lawmakers such as those in Florida who want to appear to care about patients, and of course want to therefore get a lot of votes, know just enough about medical marijuana to have maybe watched Dr. Sanjay Gupta's "Weed" specials, and they learned from it, or from second-hand accounts of the show, that "Charlotte's Web" doesn't get kids stoned and helps quell seizures.

So then they pass restrictive legislation, sometimes even requiring the specific strain, Charlotte's Web, which enriches the Stanley Brothers while leaving out in the cold other high-CBD strains such as Cannatonic and Harlequin.

Florida: Voters Will Get To Decide On Medical Marijuana In November


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Floridians will get to decide the medical marijuana question for themselves this November. A measure that would amend the state constitution to allow the medicinal use of cannabis in the Sunshine State cleared its final hurdle on Monday when the Florida Supreme Court approved its language.

The justices approved the language by a 4-3 vote in a huge defeat for Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi, who challenged the ballot language, claiming it was "misleading." Bondi claimed the ballot language misleadingly said that the state can trump federal marijuana laws, and that the measure might allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for "non-critical" ailments.

Personal injury lawyer John Morgan, a political powerbroker in the state, has contributed about $4 million to the People United For Medical Marijuana campaign, to get the issue before voters, reports The Associated Press.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott opposes medical marijuana. Both of his Democratic challengers -- state Sen. Nan Rich and former Gov. Charlie Crist -- support the measure.

The measure still faces a daunting challenge. Florida law requires that constitutional amendments get 60 percent of the vote to pass, not a simple majority.

A Quinnipiac University poll in November found overwhelming support -- 82 percent -- among Floridians for allowing adults to use cannabis for medical reasons if their doctor authorizes it. Just 16 percent said they were opposed.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Backers Say They Have Enough Signatures


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Supporters of a medical marijuana initiative in Florida on Wednesday announced they have collected enough signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot.

Campaign manager Ben Pollara of United For Care, which is sponsoring a constitutional amendment to legalize medicinal cannabis in Florida, sent out an email to supporters that the group has collected more than 1.1 million signatures, reports NBC Miami.

Organizers face a February 1 deadline to turn in 683,189 valid voter signatures in order to qualify. Election supervisors have already certified nearly 458,000 signatures.

"Literally thousands of volunteers contributed their time, collecting petitions in the rain and heat, on their weekends and holidays," Pollara said.

The Florida Supreme Court must approve the language that will go on the ballot, even if there are enough signatures. Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging the wording, claiming voters will be misled into approving widespread use of marijuana.

The court has until April to make its ruling on whether the ballot summary is misleading. Citizen initiatives are limited to 75 word summaries; the medical marijuana initiative's ballot summary has 74 words.

If the court approves the wording, the measure would need 60 percent of the vote, rather than a simple majority. Florida law requires that constitutional amendments get 60 percent.

Florida: With Clock Ticking, Morgan Pours $2.8 Million Into Medical Marijuana Drive

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The clock is ticking on the effort to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) has until February 1 to gather more than 683,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for November's ballot, and the measure's top backer, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, last month poured $2.8 million more into the effort.

Morgan in December spent $2 million on the California-based signature gathering firm PCI Consultants Inc., which has bought airtime and sent signature gathering teams to malls and other public spaces, reports Aaron Deslatte at the Orlando Sentinel.

The $2.8 million total for December also includes an $809,000 loan from Morgan's law firm to PUFMM. Campaign finance records show Morgan's family and law firm have now contributed 83 percent of the the legalization drive's entire budget.

"I'm going to have the signatures; it's just a matter of if they're valid," Morgan said. He said that more than 1 million signatures have already been collected.

The initiative is still waiting for a decision from the Florida Supreme Court on whether its ballot language is valid. Last month, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi argued that the initiative's summary was misleading and could open the door to de-facto legalized marijuana.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Ballot Petition Nears Signature Goal


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A petition drive in Florida for the medical use of marijuana is nearing its signature goal, according to organizers, who said they expect to submit enough signatures this week to get the issue on ballots in time for November's election.

Campaign organizers have to get 683,149 valid voter signatures before February 1 in order to qualify. Almost one in three signatures are typically rejected, but polls show the petition has a good chance of success, reports Bill Cotterell of Reuters.

Backers are shooting for about 1 million signatures, to account for any ruled invalid; organizers say they will hit the million-signature mark by next week, reports Reid Wilson at The Washington Post.

"By this time next week, we should have more than enough to give us some comfort that we should be on the ballot," said Ben Pollara, who runs the People United For Medical Marijuana campaign that's backing the initiative.

So far, PUFMM has submitted 265,000 valid signatures, according to the Florida Department of Elections. The group says it still has hundreds of thousands of signatures being processed by county elections officials.

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan has contributed $3 million to the campaign.

Florida: Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Medical Marijuana Ballot Drive


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Should Florida voters be allowed to decide the medical marijuana question for themselves? The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday began hearing arguments that could determine whether voters get to make the call at the ballot box next year.

For the past three years, medical marijuana bills in the Florida Legislature died without Republican leaders even scheduling a vote. Cannabis advocates say they are now acting because the Legislature failed to lead.

Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment which would allow the medicinal use of cannabis with a doctor's authorization want the court to rule the proposal does not meet ballot requirements, reports Scott Powers at the Sun Sentinel. Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and other opponents claim the ballot language, limited by law to 90 words, is a misleading summary of the six-page amendment.

They also claim that the amendment changes more than one government function, while under Florida law, constitutional amendments must be limited to "single subjects." Opponents claim the proposed medical marijuana law affects the Department of Health, the Florida Legislature, law enforcement, open records and courts.

Florida: With 80% Favoring Medical Marijuana, Opponents Turn To Supreme Court To Stop Measure


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Eighty percent of Floridians favor medical marijuana, according to the latest poll, so opponents, seeing little hope at the ballot box, have now turned to the Florida Supreme Court to stop the momentum of a proposed ballot initiative which would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in the Sunshine State.

The state Supreme Court on December 5 will hear arguments over the language of the medical marijuana proposal, reports Lloyd Dunkelberger at the Herald Tribune. Sponsors need nearly 700,000 valid voter signatures by February in order to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.

Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and other opponents of the measure claim the ballot language is misleading and would lead to "widespread use of marijuana." Supporters say they are backing the constitutional amendment because state legislators refuse to legalize medical marijuana, and are out of touch with ordinary Floridians on the subject.

A Quinnipiac University poll this month showed Florida voters approve of letting doctors authorize patients to use medical marijuana, 82 percent to 16 percent.

The ballot language is an attempt to let Floridians decide for themselves whether to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis, as 20 other states have done, according to trial lawyer John Morgan, the chief financial backer of the measure.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Has Overwhelming 82% Support


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With backers of an initiative gathering signatures for next year's ballot, medical marijuana has the support of an amazing 82 percent of voters in Florida, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday. The same poll found that 48 percent of voters favor overall legalization.

"If the folks who want to legalize medical marijuana in Florida can get their proposal on the ballot, they are overwhelmingly favored to prevail next November," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Support for the proposed constitutional amendment which could appear on the 2014 ballot is very strong among voters of every political affiliation, every age and every income level, reports Marc Caputo at the Bradenton Herald. Independent voters show the highest level of support at 88 percent, according to the poll.

The 82-16 overall support for medical marijuana is the biggest ever recorded in Florida. The previous crest of support was about 70 percent, taken in a poll earlier this year by People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), the group behind the constitutional amendment.

Florida: Marijuana Advocates Confident About Getting 500K Signatures In 90 Days, Despite Critics


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Hundreds of paid signature gatherers are fanning across Florida as part of a petition drive for the legalization of medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. Advocates have until February 1 to get 683,149 signatures to qualify their proposal for the 2014 general election ballot.

The People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) campaign has already collected about 200,000 signatures since July, with more than 100,000 of those already being validated, reports Steven Nelson at U.S. News.

That leaves just 90 days to get signatures from half-a-million more voters, meaning the campaign must average just more than 5,555 valid signatures per day from now until February.

"It's a big number we have to get between now and the beginning of the year, but we're confident we can do it," said campaign manager Ben Pollara. "We have a statewide grass-roots volunteer effort going on that's brining in five to 10,000 signatures a week, and we just kicked back up our paid petition-gathering effort, which by the middle of November should be pulling in about 60 to 70,000 signatures a week."

Paid petitioners can earn between $15 and $30 an hour, according to a Facebook page advertising the positions, well above Florida's $7.79 minimum wage.

Florida: Attorney General Asks State Supreme Court To Throw Out Medical Marijuana Initiative


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging a proposal to put a ballot measure which would legalize medical marijuana before state voters in the November 2014 general election. Bondi on Thursday sent a petition to the Florida Supreme Court, along with the campaign's ballot language and petitions.

Atty. Gen. Bondi claims that People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, filed misleading ballot language in describing how widely medical marijuana would be allowed under the measure, reports Scott Powers at the Orlando Sentinel.

Bondi also complained that the ballot language failed to note that even if Florida voters approve the measure, marijuana will still be illegal under federal law.

"Its true scope and effect remain hidden," Bondi claimed in her petition to the Supreme Court.

She charged the wording was too broad and would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for almost any condition, and additionally argued that medical marijuana could not be called "legal" as long as it's illegal under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in federal law.

Bondi's arguments would come as quite a surprise to the patients of California, who have had safe access to medical marijuana for 17 years under state law, and to patients in 19 other states which also passed medical marijuana laws without asking for federal permission.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Backer Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is: $400K


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Last summer, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan said he was prepared to spend "a lot of money" on a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. So far, he's putting his money where his mouth is.

The latest campaign finance records show Morgan and his law firm have pitched in $400,000 to the People United for Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) campaign, reports Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel. That's nearly two-thirds of the $644,535 the group had raised through September, with $250,000 of that coming in the past three months.

The other major donor to the campaign has been Democratic fundraiser and philanthropist Barbara Stiefel of Coral Gables, who contributed $100,000.

PUFMM has collected enough signatures, 105,910, to trigger Florida Supreme Court review and an economic analysis of the measure's financial impact on the state, which is currently underway. To qualify for the November 2014 general election ballot, 683,149 valid signatures are required.

Longtime Democratic fundraiser Morgan, who backs former Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida gubernatorial race, makes speeches around the state in support of the medical marijuana measure. He told a Tallahassee crowd in August how both his father and brother had suffered from cancer and injuries, and turned to cannabis to find relief from their pain.

Florida: Advocate Talks Medical Marijuana's Economic Impact


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida's economy will grow, crime will fall and new jobs will be created if the state legalizes medical marijuana, according to an advocate who's leading the push for medicinal cannabis in the Sunshine State.

John Morgan, cofounder of Orlando-based law firm Morgan & Morgan, has become the biggest backer in a Florida petition drive to legalize cannabis for medical purposes, reports Abraham Aboraya at the Orlando Business Journal.

Florida lawmakers have introduced a medical marijuana bill several times, but it has gotten nowhere. Now the voters may take things into their own hands with signature gathering underway on a ballot initiative.

Once Morgan's group, People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) collects 60,000 signatures, the initiative will be certified by the Florida Supreme Court, at which point it will start collecting the roughly 788,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, according to Morgan. Since it's a constitutional amendment, 60 percent of voters must approve the measure for it to become law.

The economic impact of legalizing medical marijuana in Florida could be more than $100 million, according to a 2011 analysis by the Orlando Business Journal.

"From an economical view for the state it's a no-brainer," Morgan said.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Drive Motivated By Passion, Not Politics


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The drive to legalize medical marijuana in Florida is driven by passion, not by a desire to boost turnout for the Democratic candidate in next year's gubernatorial race, according to Orlando attorney John Morgan, who is leading the effort. Morgan's personal-injury law firm employs former Gov. Charlie Crist, a former Republican who is widely expected to run for governor in 2014 as a Democrat.

Morgan, who has committed to spending up to $3 million to get a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana on the November 2014 ballot, told the Capital Tiger Bay Club that he learned about the medicinal benefits of cannabis 20 years ago when his father was dying of esophogeal cancer, reports Margie Menzel of the News Service of Florida.

"I know it works because I have seen it," Morgan said. "Are we going to do what's right, or are we going to get hung up on the word 'drug'?"

Morgan said his father was "the most anti-drug guy in the world," but marijuana helped him endure chronic nausea. "He got to sit at the table and have a meal and a conversation," Morgan said.

"There is no drug in America that cures the nausea from chemotherapy," Morgan said. "They say there is, but there's not."

It's not going to be easy. Passage of the constitutional amendment, should it qualify for the ballot, would require support from not just a majority of the voters, but of 60 percent -- a steep political hill to climb.

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