Medical marijuana backers raise more than $1M in one week

voters approve medial marijuana

The committee backing the 2016 medical marijuana initiative received one of its largest donations to date, boosting its coffers at a critical time in the campaign.

State records show People United for Medical Marijuana, the fundraising committee behind the ballot initiative, raised more than $1.07 million between Sept. 24 and Sept. 30. The committee received $1 million from New Approach PAC, a pro-medical marijuana group.

The committee is tied to the family of Peter Lewis, the former head of Progressive Insurance. Lewis died in 2013, and backed medical marijuana proposals in Washington and Massachusetts, according to Orlando Weekly. The committee was also a top contributor to the Oregon initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in 2014.

The sum marks the single largest contribution the United for Care campaign has received.

Records show the committee received an additional $74,171 during the one-week fundraising period. That sum includes a $50,000 donation from John Curtin, a Naples real estate investor, and $5,000 from AltMed LLC., a Florida-based medical cannabis company.

The committee spent $704,389 during the same one-week fundraising period. That includes $520,132 to a Washington, D.C.-based firm for media consulting and advertising, and $164,244 to a Weston firm for digital media.

There appears to be wide support for the 2016 medical marijuana amendment. Recent polling found 70 percent of likely Florida voters were backing the ballot initiative, including a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independent voters.

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

A similar amendment received 58 percent support in 2014, just shy of the 60 percent needed to become law.

The amendment might have broad support, but that isn’t stopping the group behind the opposition efforts.

Records show Drug Free Florida raised $560,525 during the one-week fundraising period. That sum includes $500,000 from Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate and opponent of the medical marijuana ballot initiative.

Adelson was a major backer of the 2014 opposition campaign, giving $5.5 million to Drug Free Florida in 2014.

The committee spent $326,438 during the same one-week period, including $134,641 for direct mail. The committee in September released a mailer meant to encourage Floridians to “Vote No on 2.”

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster


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