By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Sheldon Adelson, a big Republican donor and casino magnate, donated $2.5 million to a campaign opposing Florida’s medical marijuana ballot measure set to go in front of voters this November.
Amendment Two would legalize medicinal marijuana across the state. The proposed constitutional change was part of a citizen-led petition drive funded by attorney John Morgan of Morgan & Morgan in Orlando.
The amendment, if passed, would require doctors and patients to be certified by the state before they can get medical marijuana through authorized dispensaries for various listed medical conditions.
The latest polls conducted in the state show significant support for the amendment– especially among Democrats and Independents. In fact, an April Quinnipiac poll found 88 percent of Florida voters support allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes.
However, people against the amendment are getting some hefty assistance.
The newly formed group backed by Adelson, the Drug Free Florida Committee, was started by longtime GOP fundraiser Mel Sembler and his wife, Betty. It has raised $2.7 million so far and its top donors have been primarily Republicans.
Working separately to oppose Amendment 2 is the Florida Sheriffs Association, which has joined the “Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot” coalition. The group relies on the same claims that opponents used when they argued before the Florida Supreme Court that the amendment will open the door to “unfettered” access to marijuana because of a poorly worded amendment and loosely regulated system.
The Florida Supreme Court rejected the claims by opponents that the amendment will enable the backdoor legalization of pot in January when it ruled 4-3 that the amendment was narrowly drawn to limit all use of debilitating illnesses.
“This amendment as a matter of fact is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association.
He warned that the proposed amendment is “cleverly written” for “use and abuse,” will lead to children legally obtaining marijuana and predicted crime rates will soar.
“You will pay more taxes because it’s going to take more policing,” he said.
Medical marijuana advocates reject the dire predictions as hyperbole and say it is not shared by most Floridians.
The fight for medical marijuana has also been rolled into this year’s gubernatorial election.
Charlie Crist, Gov. Rick Scott’s likely Democratic opponent, is an attorney at Morgan & Morgan. According to some political strategists, the medical marijuana campaign bankrolled by Crist’s own employer could give an electoral edge to the Democratic candidate this November.
Adelson has already thrown money into the gubernatorial race here in Florida. Back in 2012, he wrote a check for $250,000 and gave it to Scott’s political action committee: Let’s Get to Work. The Times/Herald wrote back in 2012 that Scott has old ties to Adelson. He apparently flew to Las Vegas to meet with Adelson during his transition into office back in late 2010.