Successful in 2014, medical marijuana opponents ramp up campaign against latest ballot initiative

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The campaign to convince Floridians to “Vote No on 2” is officially heating up.

Vote No On 2, the group leading the charge against the 2016 medical marijuana initiative, Monday aimed at highlighting the dangers of legalizing medical marijuana. Throughout the three-minute video, viewers see what happened in California after the Golden State approved its medical marijuana program.

The video — called “Search” — shows viewers what would happen if they searched medical marijuana on Google. In a news release Monday, the Vote No on 2 campaign said the advertisement is meant to show the high number of pot shops, the types of marijuana sold, and the proliferation of kid-friendly edibles. It also is meant to highlight how easily marijuana can be obtained, and the potency of genetically modified marijuana.

“This doesn’t sound nor look like anything like actual medicine. And it definitely doesn’t sound like people getting actual care,” a man is heard saying as he searches Google for information about medical marijuana. “If they want to legalize pot, they should just say so and let the voters decide. Instead, they’re trying to trick everyone again. Looks like Amendment 2 is still a scam to legalize pot.”

Vote No On 2 led the charge against a similar constitutional amendment in 2014. That proposal received 58 percent support, just shy of the 60 percent needed to become law. Drug-Free Florida, the fundraising committee backing the opposition campaign, spent more than $6 million in the months leading up to the 2014 election.

In 2014, the group said the initiative had too many loopholes and would have been medical in name only. The campaign is taking a similar approach this year; in a statement Monday, a spokeswoman for Vote No on 2 called the amendment “déjà vu all over again.”

“Amendment 2 still doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription, it expands the drug dealer loophole, and state experts report it will still put nearly 2,000 pot shops on Florida street corners — more pot shops than Wal-Mart and Walgreens combined,” said Christina Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Vote No On 2 campaign. “The proliferation of edibles, genetically modified high-potency strains, seedy ‘pot docs’ and non-medical marijuana will make the pill mill plague look like a hiccup.”

In an email to supporters Monday, Ben Pollara, the campaign’s manager, said the VOTE NO on 2 campaign falsely claimed Amendment 2 will be similar to California laws and “spuriously compare medical marijuana to the pill mills and opiod epidemic that has killed so many people in Florida.”

“In reality, no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose and in states with medical marijuana, opioid-related deaths have gone DOWN,” he said in the email.Not that the truth matters to these people. Their job is to protect the pharmaceutical companies and a perpetuation of the reefer madness that not only belies science, it ignores what has happened in the 24 other states that have legalized medical marijuana to date.”

The amendment allows individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician to use medical marijuana. It also calls on the Department of Health to register and regulate centers to produce and distribute marijuana and issue identification cards to patients and caregivers.

The 2016 amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

Supporters of the amendment are hopeful that 2016 will be the year it becomes law. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed 80 percent of Floridians said they would vote for the amendment, and it showed support across all demographics.

Last week, John Morgan, chair of the United for Care campaign, called on supporters to join him in the mission to get the amendment passed. During a speech at the Marijuana Business Convention, Morgan said the campaign could fall flat if opponents raise more money.

In April, Mel Sembler told the Tampa Bay Times he and his wife planned to raise at least $10 million to defeat the 2016 initiative. Sembler told the Tampa Bay Times at the time they were “trying to save lives and people’s brains.”

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster

One comment

  • Bill

    May 16, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    First the 2,000 dispensaries are from a Florida Economic Study where they used dispensary and cultivation numbers from Colorado. The current SB 1030 Governor Scott signed bill allows for five zones and dispensaries. If Amendment Two passed it would be rolled into the existing Office of Compassionate Use CBD program, and merely expanded to include the ailments listed in Amendment Two.

    There will probably be lawsuits post November to expand the market, but lawsuits take time to run through the courts. Currently, lobbyists like Brian Ballard, Billy Rubin, and others along lobbyist row in Tallahassee are invested with these private growers. Growers like Costa Farms dropped $360,000 dollars last legislative cycle, with Representative Gaetz, Senator Bradley, Govenor Scott, and others to kill an amendment last legislative cycle, which would have allowed up to 20 growers.

    The media is completely missing the story in Florida on how lobbyists (Republican) created an oligarchy of growers, invested with them, and used legislative rules and regulations to restrict the numbers of growers. So, thousands of growers and dispensaries in Florida? Not as long as the invested lobbyists are in control.

    With regard to cannabis as medicine I believe both the growers and media have failed to inform the public with regard to the medicinal qualities of cannabis.

    The company that makes Stevia just changed their name, and are investing in cannabis based drugs. GW Pharmaceuticals has Epidiolex to control seizures. The cannabinoid THCV is being tested to lower insulin levels. Nemus BisoScience is developing liquid THC drops to lower the ocular pressure in all four chambers of the eye. Also, they are developing a cannabis drug to combat MRSA. There are close to 20 pharmaceutical companies developing either cannabis based drugs, or synthetic cannabinoid based drugs.

    The growers may have money and a license, but they need to put in place community outreach programs to educate the public. The media merely sensationalizes cannabis without producing a responsible, and well researched article, on the medicinal qualities of cannabis.

    Mel Sembler who is raising money to fight Amendment Two is a board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), along with billionaire Sheldon Adelson who contributed millions in 2014 to defeat Amendment Two. Ask Mr. Sembler why he demonizes medical marijuana in the United States, but both he and Sheldon Adelson have never disparaged Israel’s medical marijuana program, which consists of over 22,000 patients’ and 24 doctors.

    Israelis Defense Force (IDF) veterans even smoke cannabis for PTSD. Apparently, Sembler, Adelson, and the RJC believe Florida will have major problems, but have zero issues with Israel’s cannabis program. Why is that? Ask Mr. Sembler that question and see what type of response you receive.

    What Mel Sembler is doing is nothing more than misleading the public, leaving out information, and failing to tell the truth. Sembler believes that Isreal can run and operate a safe medical marijuana program, which by the way is blessed by the Rabbis, yet Floridians cannot create a responsible program. Seriously?

    Take a look at the existing Florida program. It is an oligarchy of six growers, Tallahassee lobbyists are invested with the growers, lobby our law makers for a restricted vertical market, and then the growers (Costa Farms) drop hundreds of thousands of dollars with the political action committees of Gaetz and Bradley ensuring the Florida program will remain highly restricted.

    There will be no thousands of dispensaries. Within Amendment two there is no wording stating that a free market must be in effect post November.

Comments are closed.


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