Samantha Pollara: In defense of my big brother Ben Pollara
Ben Pollara was able to pull off some significant Democratic wins.

os-ap-ben-pollara-united-for-care-20150222

For the last five years, my big brother, Ben Pollara, has fought to bring medical marijuana treatment to suffering citizens in the state of Florida.

He acted as campaign manager for United for Care, which was the chief facilitator of Amendment 2’s passage November, and has since worked tirelessly to craft and pass fair legislation to enact it.

His goal was a feasible plan for implementation that not only best represented the interests of sick patients, but also protected and encouraged diversity in the burgeoning medical marijuana market.

Currently, only seven companies have been licensed and approved by the Florida Department of Health to grow and dispense marijuana. In most states where medical marijuana is legal, retail dispensaries are required to be licensed individually.

However, some states, including Florida, permit multiple dispensaries to operate under a single license. Most other states impose caps on licensees, limiting the number of retail operations to either 3 or 4 on a single license, depending on the state.

My brother’s position has always been that setting caps on the number of retail operations is essential to ensuring a free and diverse market for medical marijuana in Florida.

Without these caps, the seven current licensees would be given carte blanche to overrun the market in cartel style, using massive funding capabilities to effectively shut out smaller operations at the outset. That’s basically equivalent to allowing the Wal-Marts and Targets of medical marijuana first entry into the market, without giving Mom and Pop operations a chance to gain a toehold in the industry.

Ultimately, a system of total control via these seven “cartels” would be harmful not only to the market, but to the patients as well, through artificially high prices and product homogeneity as a result of this lack of competition.

In the process of debating the bill, HB 1397, this also became the sticking point for legislators. A version of the bill passed by the Florida Senate would have allocated five dispensaries to each licensee, and allowed each one more for every additional 75,000 patients.  The bill put forth by the House of Representatives, however, contained no such restrictions. The Legislature could not come to an agreement on these terms, and the bill died in the final hours of Friday’s session.

While my brother was adamant that caps were in the best interest of both the market and the patients, he was not so uncompromising that he would have deliberately risked the passage of this bill in the Florida Legislature.

He would have done anything in his power to pass any version of it, rather than see the responsibility fall to the Department of Health, which will disproportionately favor the current licensees.

What ultimately killed the bill was discord and failure at the highest levels of legislature. It’s worth noting that the team of lobbyists working on behalf of the seven currently licensed “cartels” was headed up by Michael Corcoran, Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran’s brother. As a result of this connection, the House’s intractability on the issue of caps seems unlikely to be a coincidence.

To add insult to injury, despite having done everything he personally could to ensure the legislation’s success, my brother has faced a barrage of vicious personal attacks from his former partner and mentor, John Morgan, who places the blame entirely on Ben’s shoulders.

Mr. Morgan has repeatedly published harassing tweets directed at Ben, (one in which he even went so far as to refer to my brother as disloyal Fredo, from the Godfather, complete with the hashtag #FredoWillBeFishingSoon.) and has erroneously accused­­­ him of having an improper financial stake in attempting to pass a version of the bill that included caps.

No one has worked harder to ensure that sick patients in Florida have access to medical marijuana than my big brother, and no one knows that better than John Morgan.

Mr. Morgan ought to be ashamed of himself.

___

Samantha Pollara is a vice president of the Hillsborough Young Democrats.

Guest Author


3 comments

  • Glen Gibellina

    May 10, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Everybody and anybody involved in this process should be ashamed of themselves. I did not see 70 pages of amendments and the original constitutional ballot. The pain and suffering will still go on because of the inability of both the House and Senate to come to an agreement on something we the people passed overwhelmingly at The Ballot Box. I personally and disgusted with the performance of our legislation in not passing some type of agreement for those who are still suffering shame on them all

  • Christopher Kennard

    May 11, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Taking the next vital step forward rests upon the voters of Florida themselves, to defy those elected and appointed government officials who so willingly leave hundreds of thousand of Florida residents to die needlessly, because politicians and their brothers are trying to make even more money from Floridians than they already fleece off our hides.

    Please understand Florida voters do have the power, themselves, to change bad laws and to create good laws, that will benefit the vast majority of us all in Florida. We can use the path of the ballot initiative sponsored by citizens and voted upon by citizens to make our laws.

    One such law currently obtaining the sufficient number of Florida voter signed petitions we need to place this on the ballot in order to vote to approve it is the new state constitutional ballot initiative, RIGHT OF ADULTS TO CANNABIS [Serial # 15-20] which can be found at FloridiansForFreedom.com to be printed out, read, and if you agree, to date, sign, fill out and send it to our state office or a local county group collecting signatures near you.

    This new state law would provide the right of adults in Florida over the age of twenty-one to possess, use and grow their own cannabis on private property, in your own home garden, for personal use on private property, but not in public areas. Cannabis [marijuana] is now legal to own, use and grow in private, just like the use of alcohol in private, within your own homes or other privately owned locations.

    This law cannot be delayed, changed or denied by politicians. It is based upon your personal right to freedom and privacy on private property, as an American citizen and Florida voters residing within Florida, based upon the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, as well as our state constitution, once we pass this law next year, on Election Day, November 6, 2018. Two months later, this new law becomes fully “self-activating” and effective on Tuesday, January 8th 2019 in the State of Florida.

    It is our best defense against any attempt made by the federal government to supersede our citizen-created and approved state constitutional law for personal freedom and privacy rights on private property. Bypassing corrupt and/or inept, uncaring politicians and blocking federal efforts to deny legal cannabis are both decisively accomplished. This does not mean we may have to go to state and federal courts to protect these new rights, but we will win in the end. It is why we chose this path for a people’s peaceful “political” resolution on the issue of legalizing cannabis within the larger context of people taking back control of our own laws and government.

    Moveover, the Floridians of Freedom further urges Florida voters to sign ballot initiative petitions for the right of felons to be able to vote after serving their full sentences called the VOTING RESTORATION AMENDMENT [Serial # 14-01] (covering felons convicted for crimes other than murder or sexual offenses) and a second legal cannabis provision called REGULATE FLORIDA [Serial # 16-02].

    We have groups organizing in every one of the 67 counties in Florida. To join us, just type in the name of your county, followed by Floridians For Freedom on Facebook (for example, Marion Floridians For Freedom) or if you rather, give me a phone call or email.

    My name is Chris Kennard. I am a Volunteer Coordinator for Floridians For Freedom where I live in North Central Florida, within the City of Ocala, in Marion County, Florida.

    (352) 375-0375 or Email: [email protected]

    Floridians For Freedom, a non-partisan citizen’s movement which sponsors and is conducting this Florida voter signed petition collection drive, appeals to all Florida citizens who are sick and tired of our state politicians ignoring the needs of the people and instead focus on reaping yet more corrupt money and power for themselves or simply do not care about us, and do nothing at all, once elected to public office.

    We recently received support from the Libertarian Party of Florida whose members, county organizations and candidates campaigning for public office will join with us and other groups to distribute these petitions for Florida voters to sign so we all have the right to approve or reject these proposed constitutional protections and laws for Florida citizens.

    We have also approached the Florida AFL-CIO and will be attending the Green Party of Florida at their state Convention in Tampa, in two weeks from now, asking for their active support as well. We must stop the millions who are suffering today who could use medicinal cannabis to heal themselves, or at least alleviate their pain and suffering to some extent. Cannabis does cure most forms of cancer. Even the National Institute of Health had to acknowledge this fact last year.

    We must end the endless number of people going to prison and losing the right to vote due to simple cannabis related violations creating new felons; citizens without rights or representation. No wonder so many opt for a life of crime once arrested, convicted and cast aside as a “non-citizen” of the USA.

    We must end the long line of unemployed who can no longer apply for jobs due to failing so-called “drug” tests for cannabis that catch people who used cannabis the night before when off-work and at home or on vacation. These terminations of millions over the years from their job has been part of the problem why so many are not working and paying income tax any longer — they are not even reflected in the newspaper and government reported numbers of the unemployed any longer, thereby concealing this issue. Families lose their homes and fall apart when people lose good jobs and cannot find another one. It is a way to control the working millions of the “working class” of people creating the wealth for the 1% mega-wealthy who attempt to exert such control on the people of America.

    Hope you join us today! Our method is asking Florida voters to go to our statewide website FloridiansForFreedom.com and print out a copy of the proposed laws on these petitions. If you agree, please sign one copy; make two more copies to give to other Florida registered voters to do the same; make two more copies to hand out and sign yours. Send them to at Floridians For Freedom in your local area where FFF chapters are set up, or send to our state office, if you wish.

    Thank you. In this simple exercise of voting rights and grassroots participatory democracy, we best help ourselves and all other citizens of Florida and within our country, the USA.

    Peace Love Light within and with us all, today and always . . . .

  • Bill Monroe

    May 11, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Richard Corcoran promised transparency, yet seems to have sided with his brother the lobbyist, who has a financial stake in Surterra. Richard Corcoran is to blame for this mess siding with his brother, working with John Morgan to eliminate the dispensary cap, calling this charade a free market. A free market is not among just seven license holders. So tell us Mr. Morgan do you or Tim Morgan have ANY financial interest with the seven license holders? No problem if you do, but it would certainly your actions, and help the public understand why you screwed over Ben Pollara. For the People…if so, then open up on your financial investments, if any, with the seven license holders, and allow the people to judge for themselves what really happened.

Comments are closed.


#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704