Revised marijuana initiative about persistence for patients

By JOHN HOWELL The Daily Fray
July 12, 2015 8:00 pm

United for Care is a year older and wiser than in July 2014 when legal medical marijuana in Florida seemed like an Election Day formality. Patients are a year older, too, and many are sicker, John Morgan says. “So many people need this law to pass in order to have some quality of life.”

Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney and flag-bearer for Florida’s medical marijuana movement, wrote a $150,000 check in June to jumpstart United for Care’s new campaign. “It’s not going to be the last one,” he said. For last year’s initiative, Morgan contributed about $4 million, mostly through his law firm. Amendment 2 lost by two percentage points.

morgan2 (2).jpg» "Charlotte's Web is not enough. I'm happy that some people will have access to a medicine that they've never before had, but it's just not enough."

“We're much further along in this campaign than we were at this date in last year's initiative,” said Morgan, also a prominent Democratic fundraiser.

A revised initiative was filed in January that Morgan says answers critics of Amendment 2. United for Care says they are about 5,000 petitions away from roughly 68,000 that are required for a state Supreme Court review. Organizers need 683,149 signatures by Feb. 1 to get on the 2016 ballot.

Morgan answered some questions from The Daily Fray:

  • Amendment 2 was defeated last year by two percentage points and in January you said, "A lot of it was about me and it should be less about me and more about the patients." Did you blame yourself?

Well, the short answer is yes. I always feel or think to myself, "I could have done more," but at the end of the day, I know I did all that was in my power, and I am going to continue to do all that is my power to see the use of medical marijuana become law in Florida. Part of that means directing the public's attention to the patients of Florida, to the truly sick and suffering people who need this medicine.

  • Does United for Care's medical marijuana message change at all for the 42 percent who voted "no" last year?

Jon Mills [former speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives] and his team edited the petition to clarify some points. For instance, I know some people were worried that children would somehow obtain a doctor's recommendation and the medicine, even though it doesn't work like that for any other doctor visit, without their parent's being aware. Now, that 42 percent will undoubtedly understand that this medicine will not go into the hands of children without a several step process, which includes a signed parental consent form.

  • Low-THC medical marijuana appears back on track in Florida, and some opponents of broader legalization might say Charlotte's Web is enough. What do you say?

If it was back on track then children with epilepsy would have medicine, but they don't, so I wouldn't say SB1030 [Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014] is back on track.

Charlotte's Web is not enough. I'm happy that some people will have access to a medicine that they've never before had, but it's just not enough. It would be like approving the use of penicillin and not amoxicillin, and limiting the places where an ill person can obtain it – it just doesn't seem logical. It is one strain that is going to be allowed in one form, which will only be available at five centers throughout our state. This law does not help very many people and the petition will. 

  • Where is the campaign right now in terms of organization, raising money, and getting petitions signed?

We're much further along in this campaign than we were at this date in last year's initiative. We are hiring organizers across the state to implement our grassroots portion of the campaign. These organizers are leading the volunteer effort of collecting petitions and bringing awareness of the need for medical marijuana.

I think we've collected around 50K through the volunteer effort. We hired an organization that is hiring paid petitioners throughout the state. I think between the paid petitioners and volunteers we'll be sending the required 100K to apply for the Supreme Court review this month. We’ve had a couple courageous folks step up to donate, but we need more money. In order to run the type of ad campaign that's necessary to win, we need more money.

  • What goes through your head when someone says to you, "John, medical marijuana can't lose in 2016."

I think, "You’re absolutely right." I know we had some medical marijuana refugees after last year's failure and I just don't want to see that number triple. It's unfortunate, but so many people say this because they need this law to pass in order to have some quality of life.

fraypnglogo.png» 5=Q&A appears periodically in The Daily Fray, spotlighting people, issues, places and things. Comments: Editor@TheDailyFray.com. Photos via Tampa Bay Times (above), Daily Fray (cover).


The Gunk Report

For the Blue-Green Algal Bloom Weekly Update from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, tap here. For DEP's Algal Bloom Sampling Map, tap here.

BLUE Ocean Film Festival