John Morgan after medical marijuana legislation dies: Ben Pollara 'f*cked' the patients - Florida Politics

John Morgan after medical marijuana legislation dies: Ben Pollara ‘f*cked’ the patients

The headline writers had an easy job Friday night after the Florida Legislature failed to agree on rules to enact the medical marijuana amendment supported by 71 percent of Florida voters last November.

“Medical marijuana deal goes up in smoke,” blared the Tallahassee Democrat.

“Up in smoke: Legislature can’t agree on medical marijuana,” read The Associated Press.

In other words, the headlines wrote themselves.

What has been harder to discern is why the deal fell apart. After all, the House and Senate had agreed on most key parts of a bill putting rules in place for Amendment 2. Only Friday did this deal collapse after the chambers could not agree on the number of retail dispensaries that a medical marijuana treatment center can operate.

So who is to blame?

If you ask John Morgan, the outspoken Orlando trial attorney who was the political godfather to the 2014 and 2016 pot initiatives, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Ben Pollara, who, before Friday, was Morgan’s perceived to be proconsul in Tallahassee as the executive director of Florida for Care, an advocacy organization which was formed, in part, to lobby the Legislature on issues related to the expanded use of medical marijuana. Pollara, a South Florida Democrat who works in both political and policy arenas, was also the campaign manager for United for Care, the chief political organization pushing for passage of Amendment 2.

“Ben Pollara fucked the patients,” Morgan said in an exclusive interview with FloridaPolitics.com Saturday morning. “The person who strengthened the cartels (a reference to the seven existing licenses permitted to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana in Florida and who have been on the opposite side of Florida for Care as the Legislature debated the implementation of Amendment 2) the most is Ben Pollara.”

As first — and astutely — reported by Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News, it was, in fact, the ‘pro-medical marijuana lobby’ that killed HB 1397.

It was Florida For Care which pushed the issue of limiting the number of dispensaries for growers at the last minute to force the state to issue more licenses to get rid of … the original seven growers allowed to dispense the drug across the state.

At the eleventh hour, insiders said, Florida For Care lobbyists Frank and Tracy Mayernick put pressure on Senate President Joe Negron over the cap numbers to ultimately force the state to issue more licenses and break up the seven initial medical cannabis growers.

The House voted 99-16 on a bill with the amended language (HB 1397) that put the limit at 100 per treatment center but the Senate, which limited it to five per treatment center, did not take it up.

Morgan says that rather than working toward a bill that would have allowed patients unfettered access to the burgeoning medical marijuana market, Pollara deployed the lobbyists (with whom Morgan says he has had no interaction) because Pollara was also working for “other prospective licensees” who wished to see the number of available licenses increased, but not so much that the market would be overrun.

To Morgan, this was an inherent conflict of interest.

Morgan said he only learned three weeks ago about Pollara’s outside clients. He said that lobbyist William Rubin brought up the issue when the two men discussed why the Legislature wasn’t moving quicker to implement Amendment 2.

Morgan says he confronted Pollara about the conflict of interest, at which point, Morgan says, Pollara began “screaming about the ‘evilness of the cartels.’ “

Pollara disputes Morgan’s accusations.

“The only compensation I have ever sought or received for work related to medical marijuana has been for political consulting and lobbying,” said Pollara. “I have always viewed any financial stake in the marijuana industry as a clear conduct with my roles as an advocate and leader of these two organizations.”

The first sign of trouble between Morgan and Pollara, who have for the last four years had a symbiotic political relationship, appeared Friday evening when Morgan tweeted, “My #ArmyOfAngels will be shocked to learn of the person responsible for this deadlock!” The tweet was accompanied by imagery from the iconic scene in the Godfather 2 when Al Pacino‘s character, Michael Corleone, confronts his older brother, Fredo (played by John Cazale) about his role in a failed assassination attempt.

In ominous terms, Morgan wrote #FredoWillBeFishingSoon.

In subsequent tweets — perhaps as the liquor began to flow at Casa Morgan — the always sharp-witted Morgan called out Pollara by his Twitter handle, setting off rampant speculation about what could have happened between the two one-time political allies.

By Saturday morning, Morgan was kaput with Pollara.

“The first thing I am going to do is make sure the people who helped me pass Amendment 2 know not to give Ben Pollara another red nickel,” Morgan said.

As for the future of the medical marijuana initiative, it will now be up to the Department of Health to come up with rules for patients, caregivers, doctors and treatment centers by July 3 and have them implemented by October.

Morgan said he would urge Gov. Rick Scott to call for a special session to implement Amendment 2.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

10 Comments

  1. The original Sons of Liberty patriotically protested in 1773 against the kind of marijuana monopoly we’ve just begun regulating in 2017 Florida. Prohibition did not work again. Legalize the medicinal healing herb.

  2. Very Well written piece here, good work . Cuts through the AP slough of “Up in Smoke Articles on what really happened. I have been following the story closely as my son has cerebral palsy and our 90 day waiting period is coming soon. I also have been through and have submitted forms to receive a medical ID from the department of health , however like many others and just waiting on legislature to make up their minds and pass a bill, which seemed like a sure thing on thursday. but wait what happened?! Polarra? Drug Free Senkler? Big Pharm Payments , who knows but here we are.

    So what now? When does the DOH start making their rules and what deadline do they have?

    When does the next Legislative session begin?

    One more question for anyone reading that has answers: I like John Morgan but I was told the other day he has multiple DUI offenses and Has permanently had his Driving Privileges revoked. Any truth to this? I like John and think he would be way better for the people of the state rather than Scott or Christ.

    Give the 72% what they voted for soon. please.

  3. This has been a boondoggle from the start. Legalize what(?); An herb that harms no-one. Put your reality glasses on people. Cannabis is gift of nature and propitious to the human condition. NO AUTHORITY has authority to rule this thing illegal. Period. Controlled? $$$$$$. It’s aparant what this is all about. Everyone has a fork in the pie except the people who are taxed to death by “out of control” government corruption.

    1. Of the people by the people for the people, unless you live in Florida. The fix is in and we lose…

  4. Without the John or Ben we would not have passed amendment 2. What has occurred is over now Floridians have to move forward. The DOH had several public meeting across the state this year listen to input from Floridians about amendment 2. If they listened to the people then they will craft regulations that will allow patients and their doctor decide what’s best for them. If they listened there will be no 90 day waiting period. If they follow their own analysis Florida Department of Health “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions” Constitutional Amendment Analysis released on October 15,2015, there will be a free market that will provide access, to quality, quantity and local education provided by the small business that have put their mark on our Florida communities. We must be vigilant and contact the DOH to let them know what we the people want and expect.

  5. Good luck on the lousy Florida Department of Health doing anything good about medical marijuana since our lousy governor Prick Scott controls the department.

  6. All the reason why an amendment to legalize it recreationally should be passed. Just allow people to grow their own or at least not for to jail for it.

  7. As a pain mgt. patient for over a decade, due to failed L5-S1 surgery, I have been anxiously awaiting this law to be passed, and now am waiting for implementation of the bill. I currently have a relationship with the Fla. Dept. of Health through the Hillsborough County division because I own a Tattoo Studio and submit to inspections and licensing requirements. The governments’ hand in my business pocket keeps taking more and more of the pitiful profit I am able to generate. Not only do they tax my business as a tattoo studio, and piercing studio separately, even though it would make sense for the rules that apply to one also apply to the other (?!?) And, they then take more from me, personally, as a tattoo artist, and a piercing artist, also separately. I get taxed as a business in the city of Tampa, and separately as one in Hillsborough county. Talk about double, triple, quadruple taxation. It’s really tough to be a really small business in Tampa!!

    So, I already qualify for the Compassionate Care Card. But MY Dr. of 15 years wants $275 to write my name in a folder. Geeesh! He already has my information. And, if I lived in CA it would only cost $30 for the card!! And due to the healthy competition in the market in CA, the cost of their products is many, many times lower than what is being offered in FL. And, where are the edibles in FL? I can’t smoke it as I have just made it past my 1 year smoke-free mark!! I’m afraid that would negatively affect me!

    Oh, and one more: I am 64 and get widow benefits from my husbands’ (of 34 yrs.) S. S. account. When I turn 65, I have to choose to continue to get his benefits or get my own benefits. You see, I also paid in to Social Security all my working life and have my own separate funds due. But, NNNOOOOOOOOO, I can only collect one, which means all my own benefits just go ‘poof’, and all those contributions amount to ‘zip’ for me. And, certainly, I can’t live on $1500 +/- a month!!! (That is the amount of benefits I get from being a widow.) My own benefits would be a bit less being a woman, I could never seem to earn more than him. (If anyone has any kind of solution for this, please post a comment about it, and I will check back.)

    So, I am still rooting for John Morgan, DUI or not. That man is my hero! He is spending a ‘truck load’ of his own personal money to help strangers and correct an injustice that has existed far too long. (Not to mention all his time that could have been ‘billable’ instead of working on the MJ project. “GO, John, GO!!!”

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