Anti-medical marijuana campaign prepares to raise money

voters approve medial marijuana

The group that opposed and defeated the 2014 proposed medical marijuana constitutional amendment is preparing to raise money to try the same for this year’s initiative.

The Drug-Free Florida Committee, a political action committee associated with St. Petersburg Republican financier and business executive Mel Sembler, will begin raising money shortly with hopes to do battle again with Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan‘s United For Care.

Sembler told the Tampa Bay Times that he was shooting for $10 million this year, which would be more than the $7 million-plus the group raised in its successful 2014 campaign, which sent United For Care’s medical marijuana amendment to defeat at the polls.

Tre’ Evers of Consensus Communications, which is representing Drug-Free Florida Committee, said the fundraising goal will be higher for this campaign if for no other reason than because radio, TV, newspaper, and other advertising costs are much more expensive during a presidential election year.

United For Care’s proposal to fully legalize medical marijuana will appear as Amendment 2 on the November statewide ballot.

“The fundraising will start pretty quickly here for the “No on 2″ campaign, and our goal certainly will be higher than two years ago,” Evers said.

It also may be a tougher sell this year, requiring more campaign money, because presidential elections tend to draw larger and younger electorates.

But Evers and United For Care’s campaign manager Ben Pollara disagree about whether Floridians will be harder to convince to say no this time. In 2014, the proposal drew a 58 percent yes vote, but it needed 60 percent to pass.

“Medical marijuana is something the people of Florida want,” Pollara said.

“We have confidence that if we can raise enough money and get the message out we can convince voters this is not medical marijuana, it’s just legalization,” Evers responded.

A key to the opposition campaign’s success in raising money may hinge on the interest of Las Vegas casino magnate and political financier Sheldon Adelson. He is a friend of Sembler’s who donated $5.5 million in 2014. So far Adelson has been quiet. But Evers said he’s a longtime supporter of Sembler’s anti-drug efforts and has consistently said he will continue to support them, though he has not made any specific commitments.

United For Care’s political action committee People United For Medical Marijuana has its own significant contributor, Morgan, who has pledged to match contributions to his campaign. So far the campaign has raised about $3.6 million for this try, but it spent more than $3 million collecting signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

Drug-Free Florida Committee has not raised any money yet.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]



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