Ben Pollara’s emotional mea culpa on John Morgan split, marijuana bill failure

john and ben

Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida For Care, spoke out Monday afternoon over the well-publicized split with Orlando uber-attorney John Morgan over the failed medical marijuana implementation bill.

On Friday night, the Florida Legislature killed HB 1397, a bill to enact the medical marijuana amendment approved by 71 percent of voters in November. Morgan, who spearheaded and bankrolled much of Amendment 2 in both 2014 and 2016, puts blame for the bill’s failure squarely on Pollara’s shoulders.

“Ben Pollara fucked the patients,” Morgan told bluntly Saturday morning. “The person who strengthened the cartels (the seven existing licenses permitted to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana in Florida and opposed Florida for Care as the Legislature debated implementing Amendment 2) the most is Ben Pollara.”

In a lengthy, emotional email Monday Pollara explained some of the motives behind what happened, and why the bill ultimately died — taking some (qualified) responsibility.

Much of the friction behind the final approval of the bill came in part from disagreement over the number of allowable medical marijuana treatment centers under the law. Lawmakers could not agree on how to best balance the needs of patients with that of licensees — refer to by some as “cartels” — authorized by the state to produce and distribute medical pot.

“The initial bill out of the House was horrendous,” Pollara wrote. “Partially drafted by Mel Sembler and Drug-Free America, it was severely restrictive and not only banned smokable, edible, and vapable forms of marijuana, but it also added onerous restrictions on patients, such as a 90- day waiting period and recertification period.”

Pollara said the House then took a position that strengthened the position existing licensees, allowing them to open unlimited storefronts around the state. On the other hand, the Senate attempted to limit the number of retail facilities a single MMTC (Medical Marijuana Treatment Center) could operate, so that “a more diverse, freer market” could develop.

“I advocated strongly for the Senate position, believing — as I still do — that it would result in better access for patients,” Pollara said. Unfortunately, it set off a “very intense lobbying battle on both sides” leading to neither side coming to terms in the end.

“Morgan is livid over this and blames me entirely for the failure to pass legislation this session,” Pollara continued. “I accept that I deserve some of that blame … However, the choices we faced were ‘bad,’ ‘worse’ and ‘the worst.’”

What happened, Pollara wrote, was “the worst.” And either way, there would be litigation.

Pollara expressed deep sadness over both the failure of the bill, and Morgan’s take on what happened.

“I love and respect John, without whom we would have never passed Amendment 2,” he said. “We’ve had very heated arguments in private over policy and strategy in the past, but in the end, we recovered and kept our eyes on the goal.”

Though “devastated” by Morgan’s anger, Pollara said he thoroughly understands it, and if their relationship never heals, “it will not erase the many years of fighting together [for] an incredibly important cause.”

Despite that, Pollara vows to continue the fight for “those principles until the will of 71 percent of Floridians is finally realized in this state.”

Signed “with love and sorrow,” Pollara concludes his letter by apologizing to all those he let down.

“And I want to — from the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of everyone at Florida for Care — thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do to advance this cause.”

Read it Pollara’s entire letter here:

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a Tampa Bay-area journalist, editor and writer. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including His broad range includes covering news, local government, entertainment reviews, marketing and an advice column. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in Tampa with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached on Twitter @PhilAmmann or at [email protected]


  • Dr. Reid Friedson

    May 8, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Sons and Daughters of Liberty hereby petition the Florida Legislature to legalize marijuana in the Sunshine State.

  • Let's get real

    May 8, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    No, John. You’re just mad that there will be fewer ambulances to chase because of collisions with people driving while high.

  • Disgusted by FL Politicos

    May 8, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    These Florida politicians need to be voted OUT of office for subverting the will of 71% of voters. The fact that The Semblers and Drug Free America Foundation helped draft the horrendous House bill should have signaled which way this train wreck was going to go.

    Both the House and Senate bills were OVERLY restrictive. Is this the “nanny” state? In what world does a politician get to dictate how people ingest medical marijuana? The “non-smokable” form of cannabis provision was ridiculous. Likewise the 90-day waiting period and “re”-certification. And likewise, the mandate that doctors “prescribe” versus “recommend”.

    It only took the clowns in Tallahassee 5 pages of legislation to approve hard liquor sales in grocery stores, but they wrote 84 pages of overly-restrictive nonsense in an attempt to over-regulate a PLANT that has never killed a single human being in all of recorded history.

    Alas, at the end of the day it came to down money and greed, seemingly the only real motivators at the statehouse. The seven-grower “cartel” wanted to open unlimited dispensaries and sell substandard oils, tinctures, pills, and k-cup style vaporizer packs filled with fan leaf trim and sugar leaf trim (NOT cannabis flower). Ben was wise to point out that by limiting the number of dispensaries the cartels could open, it would force the need for more licenses for more growers, thereby spurring competition, lower prices, better quality, and lower prices. But that would be good for patients, NOT for greedy politicians & special interests.

    Now it goes to the DOH and Christian Bax, the cronyism/nepotism hire with absolutely NO provable experience in the medical cannabis industry whatsoever, whose presence seems to be to ensure medical cannabis fails. AWESOME. I hope they replenished their coffers for the incoming mountain of lawsuits.

    With the stranglehold Big Pharma and The Semblers have on this state, no one should be surprised at this outcome. And while the governor continues to complain about the “opiate epidemic” plaguing the state, one solution staring him in the face has failed to be implemented. In states with FUNCTIONING medical cannabis programs, opiate overdoes are down as much as 25%. But the only motivator in Tallahassee is money. People be damned.

    Democracy in Florida: bought and paid for.

  • Greg Mace

    May 10, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    I will be jumping for joy come election day. The great people of Florida have been very tolerant with the mess florida has created in the implementation of mmj laws up to this point. If GovernerScott does not call for special session to fix it, come November we remember.

    I highly recommend John Morgan for your legal issues, and do not forget You are The voters.

Comments are closed.


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