By Michael Mayo
4:41 PM EDT, May 27, 2013
John Morgan already has the battle cry for his upcoming fight to change Florida's constitution to legalize medical marijuana.
"I'll take God's plant over Big Pharma's pills," Morgan says.
Morgan, a high-profile Orlando attorney whose firm employs former Florida governor Charlie Crist, says he is willing to pour up to $3 million of his own money into a petition drive to get the issue on the November 2014 ballot.
Morgan is organizing "an army of angels" to gather the 788,000 signatures needed statewide. In his view (and mine too), marijuana is safer, better and more natural than synthetic opioids and painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, which he says kill thousands through abuse and addiction.
If the petition drive succeeds, the amendment will need 60 percent voter approval to pass.
"Sixty percent could be a problem — it's a tough hurdle for any initiative," Morgan told me earlier this month.
Morgan says he's willing to roll the dice because the issue is personal for him. When his father was dying of esophageal cancer and emphysema more than 20 years ago, Morgan said marijuana helped.
"He was in pain, had no appetite," Morgan said. "At that point in life, you don't have much." As soon as his father tried some pot brownies at his brother's suggestion, Morgan said his father's quality of life improved: "He was able to have a nice meal, no anxiety. … It took away the nausea from his treatments."
Medical marijuana is now legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia, but the "Just Say No" mentality still prevails in the Florida Legislature. A pair of medical marijuana bills went up in smoke in the 2013 session without even getting one committee hearing. And federal law still bans marijuana for medical use, with pot classified as a dangerous drug akin to heroin and LSD.
Some polls have shown that more than 70 percent of Floridians support legalizing medical marijuana. But Morgan says most politicians are afraid of being labeled soft on drugs. Morgan emphasizes his movement isn't for full-scale legalization, but for use overseen by a physician for conditions like cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease and glaucoma.
He has hired Jan Mills, a former Florida House speaker and University of Florida constitutional law professor, to draft the amendment language for the petition and ballot. "We have to make sure it's bulletproof," Morgan said. He said those interested in volunteering to gather signatures can contact him at JohnMorgan@forthepeople.com.
I asked if this was a way to boost Democratic turnout for the midterm elections and governor's race. Morgan, a Democrat, said he's spent a lot of time with President Obama's top campaign strategists and "they don't believe [this issue] moves the needle much. … But anybody who turns out for this is compassionate, and I like when polls are filled with compassionate voters."
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