"I just want to stop the state of Florida from putting people in jail for this BS. I mean, if they make it legal, why did they put me in jail?” — Myron Lieberman
In Florida’s crowded field of marijuana ballot initiatives involving lawyers, doctors, teachers, political strategists, former elected officials, activists, law enforcement, and entrepreneurs, a Miami Beach semi-retiree stands out. For one thing, he can’t vote.
“I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Libertarian. I’m an American,” Myron Lieberman said. “So I just said, hey, why not? I have as much a right as anyone to try and get this legalized.”
On Friday, a group called Regulate Florida launched a campaign for full legalization of pot. The proposed amendment was written by high-profile attorneys Michael Minardi (below), a medical marijuana specialist, and Bill Wohlsifer, who ran an unsuccessful campaign last year for Attorney General. The petition was approved by the Division of Elections Aug. 26.
But Regulate Florida isn’t the first group seeking outright legalization in 2016. It’s not the second. It might not be the third when you count a peculiar amendment proposal that links “dietary” pot sales to teacher salaries. Excluding United for Care’s medical initiative there are four ballot measures for full legalization, each seeking roughly 700,000 certified signatures before Feb. 1.
“What I’m telling everybody is to sign all the petitions. Sign ’em all,” Lieberman said on the phone recently. “What do we got to lose?”
Lieberman’s proposal, “Marijuana Use for Recreational Purposes in the State of Florida,” was approved July 10 by election officials. He acknowledges he is an unlikely architect for an amendment legalizing marijuana for adults. Or is he?
Lieberman, 71, knows several sides of the business. He honed his marijuana sales skills in Miami Beach in the wild 1960s, starting when he was 17. He is astute in negotiations. He is knowledgeable about pricing, quality control, and marketing. He was giving marijuana freebies to cancer patients years ago, he said, before the palliative effects were recognized by mainstream medicine.
A hole in Lieberman’s resume is security.
“I’ve been in trouble twice for trafficking marijuana,” Lieberman said. “The first time I had about 2,500 pounds in my truck. That was back in 1979. The second time, in 1996, they caught me with 220 pounds but I had to plead guilty to an 880-pound conspiracy.”
For sure, Lieberman’s petition is a longshot. So far, he said, there is no money, no certified signatures, no organized support other than a political action committee, “Right Now is the Time to Legalize Recreational Marijuana.”
“I’m waiting to get people on the street corners in Miami-Dade County to get this started collecting money at the intersections. Then we’ll go from there,” Lieberman said. “We’re working on a website now. I don’t want to tell you the name of it because it’s not complete yet.”
Lieberman and Regulate Florida were nearly a team, Lieberman said. He said he was approached by Regulate Florida “about three months ago.” He said he sat in on meetings that included Karen Goldstein, vice-chair of Regulate Florida and a deputy director of NORML of Florida.
According to Lieberman, “I was going to handle a big portion of the fundraising [but] I never got a chance to speak to their attorneys who were working on the petition.”
Regulate Florida passed on several emails requesting comment. Ultimately, Lieberman said, he sensed a cold shoulder and assumes his criminal background was the reason.
“I tell everybody that, right up front, so nobody can say, ‘Do you know who you’re dealing with,’ ” Lieberman said. “I didn’t rob a bank. I didn’t rape anyone. I didn’t rob anyone. I was trading in herb. I gave it to cancer patients years ago.”
A fourth full legalization petition, “Right of Adults to Cannibis,” also was approved Aug. 26. All the ballot measures agree: you must be 21 to partake.
"We have a handful of dedicated people that are working on this,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman was sentenced to 41 months for his second trafficking conviction. He got out of prison Dec. 15, 2000, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Under Florida law his voting rights were stripped. He said he is semi-retired.
“I have some other projects I’m working on, including something in the adult entertainment field,” Lieberman said. “I’ve done a lot of things. I was born into an interstate trucking company. I’ve dabbled in real estate. I drove a limousine.”
And really, Lieberman said, he doesn’t care whose petition wins as long as legalization prevails.
“I was in Miami when pot first started here,” Lieberman said. “When the rest of the country was drinking beer, we were smoking weed. I just want to stop the state of Florida from putting people in jail for this BS.
"I mean, if they make it legal, why did they put me in jail?”
Hasta la vista