john morgan

Florida: Voters Will Get To Decide On Medical Marijuana In November


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Floridians will get to decide the medical marijuana question for themselves this November. A measure that would amend the state constitution to allow the medicinal use of cannabis in the Sunshine State cleared its final hurdle on Monday when the Florida Supreme Court approved its language.

The justices approved the language by a 4-3 vote in a huge defeat for Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi, who challenged the ballot language, claiming it was "misleading." Bondi claimed the ballot language misleadingly said that the state can trump federal marijuana laws, and that the measure might allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for "non-critical" ailments.

Personal injury lawyer John Morgan, a political powerbroker in the state, has contributed about $4 million to the People United For Medical Marijuana campaign, to get the issue before voters, reports The Associated Press.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott opposes medical marijuana. Both of his Democratic challengers -- state Sen. Nan Rich and former Gov. Charlie Crist -- support the measure.

The measure still faces a daunting challenge. Florida law requires that constitutional amendments get 60 percent of the vote to pass, not a simple majority.

A Quinnipiac University poll in November found overwhelming support -- 82 percent -- among Floridians for allowing adults to use cannabis for medical reasons if their doctor authorizes it. Just 16 percent said they were opposed.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Backers Say They Have Enough Signatures


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Supporters of a medical marijuana initiative in Florida on Wednesday announced they have collected enough signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot.

Campaign manager Ben Pollara of United For Care, which is sponsoring a constitutional amendment to legalize medicinal cannabis in Florida, sent out an email to supporters that the group has collected more than 1.1 million signatures, reports NBC Miami.

Organizers face a February 1 deadline to turn in 683,189 valid voter signatures in order to qualify. Election supervisors have already certified nearly 458,000 signatures.

"Literally thousands of volunteers contributed their time, collecting petitions in the rain and heat, on their weekends and holidays," Pollara said.

The Florida Supreme Court must approve the language that will go on the ballot, even if there are enough signatures. Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging the wording, claiming voters will be misled into approving widespread use of marijuana.

The court has until April to make its ruling on whether the ballot summary is misleading. Citizen initiatives are limited to 75 word summaries; the medical marijuana initiative's ballot summary has 74 words.

If the court approves the wording, the measure would need 60 percent of the vote, rather than a simple majority. Florida law requires that constitutional amendments get 60 percent.

Florida: With Clock Ticking, Morgan Pours $2.8 Million Into Medical Marijuana Drive

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The clock is ticking on the effort to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) has until February 1 to gather more than 683,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for November's ballot, and the measure's top backer, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, last month poured $2.8 million more into the effort.

Morgan in December spent $2 million on the California-based signature gathering firm PCI Consultants Inc., which has bought airtime and sent signature gathering teams to malls and other public spaces, reports Aaron Deslatte at the Orlando Sentinel.

The $2.8 million total for December also includes an $809,000 loan from Morgan's law firm to PUFMM. Campaign finance records show Morgan's family and law firm have now contributed 83 percent of the the legalization drive's entire budget.

"I'm going to have the signatures; it's just a matter of if they're valid," Morgan said. He said that more than 1 million signatures have already been collected.

The initiative is still waiting for a decision from the Florida Supreme Court on whether its ballot language is valid. Last month, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi argued that the initiative's summary was misleading and could open the door to de-facto legalized marijuana.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Ballot Petition Nears Signature Goal


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A petition drive in Florida for the medical use of marijuana is nearing its signature goal, according to organizers, who said they expect to submit enough signatures this week to get the issue on ballots in time for November's election.

Campaign organizers have to get 683,149 valid voter signatures before February 1 in order to qualify. Almost one in three signatures are typically rejected, but polls show the petition has a good chance of success, reports Bill Cotterell of Reuters.

Backers are shooting for about 1 million signatures, to account for any ruled invalid; organizers say they will hit the million-signature mark by next week, reports Reid Wilson at The Washington Post.

"By this time next week, we should have more than enough to give us some comfort that we should be on the ballot," said Ben Pollara, who runs the People United For Medical Marijuana campaign that's backing the initiative.

So far, PUFMM has submitted 265,000 valid signatures, according to the Florida Department of Elections. The group says it still has hundreds of thousands of signatures being processed by county elections officials.

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan has contributed $3 million to the campaign.

Florida: Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Medical Marijuana Ballot Drive


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Should Florida voters be allowed to decide the medical marijuana question for themselves? The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday began hearing arguments that could determine whether voters get to make the call at the ballot box next year.

For the past three years, medical marijuana bills in the Florida Legislature died without Republican leaders even scheduling a vote. Cannabis advocates say they are now acting because the Legislature failed to lead.

Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment which would allow the medicinal use of cannabis with a doctor's authorization want the court to rule the proposal does not meet ballot requirements, reports Scott Powers at the Sun Sentinel. Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and other opponents claim the ballot language, limited by law to 90 words, is a misleading summary of the six-page amendment.

They also claim that the amendment changes more than one government function, while under Florida law, constitutional amendments must be limited to "single subjects." Opponents claim the proposed medical marijuana law affects the Department of Health, the Florida Legislature, law enforcement, open records and courts.

Florida: With 80% Favoring Medical Marijuana, Opponents Turn To Supreme Court To Stop Measure


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Eighty percent of Floridians favor medical marijuana, according to the latest poll, so opponents, seeing little hope at the ballot box, have now turned to the Florida Supreme Court to stop the momentum of a proposed ballot initiative which would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in the Sunshine State.

The state Supreme Court on December 5 will hear arguments over the language of the medical marijuana proposal, reports Lloyd Dunkelberger at the Herald Tribune. Sponsors need nearly 700,000 valid voter signatures by February in order to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.

Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and other opponents of the measure claim the ballot language is misleading and would lead to "widespread use of marijuana." Supporters say they are backing the constitutional amendment because state legislators refuse to legalize medical marijuana, and are out of touch with ordinary Floridians on the subject.

A Quinnipiac University poll this month showed Florida voters approve of letting doctors authorize patients to use medical marijuana, 82 percent to 16 percent.

The ballot language is an attempt to let Floridians decide for themselves whether to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis, as 20 other states have done, according to trial lawyer John Morgan, the chief financial backer of the measure.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Has Overwhelming 82% Support


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With backers of an initiative gathering signatures for next year's ballot, medical marijuana has the support of an amazing 82 percent of voters in Florida, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday. The same poll found that 48 percent of voters favor overall legalization.

"If the folks who want to legalize medical marijuana in Florida can get their proposal on the ballot, they are overwhelmingly favored to prevail next November," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Support for the proposed constitutional amendment which could appear on the 2014 ballot is very strong among voters of every political affiliation, every age and every income level, reports Marc Caputo at the Bradenton Herald. Independent voters show the highest level of support at 88 percent, according to the poll.

The 82-16 overall support for medical marijuana is the biggest ever recorded in Florida. The previous crest of support was about 70 percent, taken in a poll earlier this year by People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), the group behind the constitutional amendment.

Florida: Marijuana Advocates Confident About Getting 500K Signatures In 90 Days, Despite Critics


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Hundreds of paid signature gatherers are fanning across Florida as part of a petition drive for the legalization of medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. Advocates have until February 1 to get 683,149 signatures to qualify their proposal for the 2014 general election ballot.

The People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) campaign has already collected about 200,000 signatures since July, with more than 100,000 of those already being validated, reports Steven Nelson at U.S. News.

That leaves just 90 days to get signatures from half-a-million more voters, meaning the campaign must average just more than 5,555 valid signatures per day from now until February.

"It's a big number we have to get between now and the beginning of the year, but we're confident we can do it," said campaign manager Ben Pollara. "We have a statewide grass-roots volunteer effort going on that's brining in five to 10,000 signatures a week, and we just kicked back up our paid petition-gathering effort, which by the middle of November should be pulling in about 60 to 70,000 signatures a week."

Paid petitioners can earn between $15 and $30 an hour, according to a Facebook page advertising the positions, well above Florida's $7.79 minimum wage.

Florida: Attorney General Asks State Supreme Court To Throw Out Medical Marijuana Initiative


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging a proposal to put a ballot measure which would legalize medical marijuana before state voters in the November 2014 general election. Bondi on Thursday sent a petition to the Florida Supreme Court, along with the campaign's ballot language and petitions.

Atty. Gen. Bondi claims that People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, filed misleading ballot language in describing how widely medical marijuana would be allowed under the measure, reports Scott Powers at the Orlando Sentinel.

Bondi also complained that the ballot language failed to note that even if Florida voters approve the measure, marijuana will still be illegal under federal law.

"Its true scope and effect remain hidden," Bondi claimed in her petition to the Supreme Court.

She charged the wording was too broad and would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for almost any condition, and additionally argued that medical marijuana could not be called "legal" as long as it's illegal under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in federal law.

Bondi's arguments would come as quite a surprise to the patients of California, who have had safe access to medical marijuana for 17 years under state law, and to patients in 19 other states which also passed medical marijuana laws without asking for federal permission.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Backer Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is: $400K


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Last summer, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan said he was prepared to spend "a lot of money" on a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. So far, he's putting his money where his mouth is.

The latest campaign finance records show Morgan and his law firm have pitched in $400,000 to the People United for Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) campaign, reports Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel. That's nearly two-thirds of the $644,535 the group had raised through September, with $250,000 of that coming in the past three months.

The other major donor to the campaign has been Democratic fundraiser and philanthropist Barbara Stiefel of Coral Gables, who contributed $100,000.

PUFMM has collected enough signatures, 105,910, to trigger Florida Supreme Court review and an economic analysis of the measure's financial impact on the state, which is currently underway. To qualify for the November 2014 general election ballot, 683,149 valid signatures are required.

Longtime Democratic fundraiser Morgan, who backs former Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida gubernatorial race, makes speeches around the state in support of the medical marijuana measure. He told a Tallahassee crowd in August how both his father and brother had suffered from cancer and injuries, and turned to cannabis to find relief from their pain.

Florida: Advocate Talks Medical Marijuana's Economic Impact


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida's economy will grow, crime will fall and new jobs will be created if the state legalizes medical marijuana, according to an advocate who's leading the push for medicinal cannabis in the Sunshine State.

John Morgan, cofounder of Orlando-based law firm Morgan & Morgan, has become the biggest backer in a Florida petition drive to legalize cannabis for medical purposes, reports Abraham Aboraya at the Orlando Business Journal.

Florida lawmakers have introduced a medical marijuana bill several times, but it has gotten nowhere. Now the voters may take things into their own hands with signature gathering underway on a ballot initiative.

Once Morgan's group, People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) collects 60,000 signatures, the initiative will be certified by the Florida Supreme Court, at which point it will start collecting the roughly 788,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, according to Morgan. Since it's a constitutional amendment, 60 percent of voters must approve the measure for it to become law.

The economic impact of legalizing medical marijuana in Florida could be more than $100 million, according to a 2011 analysis by the Orlando Business Journal.

"From an economical view for the state it's a no-brainer," Morgan said.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Drive Motivated By Passion, Not Politics


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The drive to legalize medical marijuana in Florida is driven by passion, not by a desire to boost turnout for the Democratic candidate in next year's gubernatorial race, according to Orlando attorney John Morgan, who is leading the effort. Morgan's personal-injury law firm employs former Gov. Charlie Crist, a former Republican who is widely expected to run for governor in 2014 as a Democrat.

Morgan, who has committed to spending up to $3 million to get a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana on the November 2014 ballot, told the Capital Tiger Bay Club that he learned about the medicinal benefits of cannabis 20 years ago when his father was dying of esophogeal cancer, reports Margie Menzel of the News Service of Florida.

"I know it works because I have seen it," Morgan said. "Are we going to do what's right, or are we going to get hung up on the word 'drug'?"

Morgan said his father was "the most anti-drug guy in the world," but marijuana helped him endure chronic nausea. "He got to sit at the table and have a meal and a conversation," Morgan said.

"There is no drug in America that cures the nausea from chemotherapy," Morgan said. "They say there is, but there's not."

It's not going to be easy. Passage of the constitutional amendment, should it qualify for the ballot, would require support from not just a majority of the voters, but of 60 percent -- a steep political hill to climb.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative Push Gets Final Approval


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida medical marijuana advocates on Wednesday got final approval from the Department of State to start collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would legalize medicinal cannabis in the state constitution.

The medical marijuana petition now has a serial number, and supporters can begin getting the almost 700,000 signatures needed by February 1 to put the issue before voters in 2014, reports Zac Anderson at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), the group behind the constitutional amendment, plans to send out paid signature gatherers to blanket the state; such an effort could cost more than $3 million.

The group raised almost $200,000 between January and March, with more than half of that total coming from political powerbroker and personal injury lawyer John Morgan. PUFMM's second-quarter fundraising total hasn't been reported yet, but it will be similar to the first quarter's total, according to campaign coordinator Ben Pollara.

Pollara and Morgan will now begin an aggressive fundraising push, with the petition finalized.

"We're very excited the petition got approved and now we're restarting the real work of the campaign," Pollara said.

Most of the money will come from a small group of wealthy donors with an interest in the issue, according to Pollara "We're in the late stages of these conversations," he said.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Initiative Takes First Step Towards 2014 Ballot


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, led by Orlando lawyer and political power broker/fundraiser John Morgan, is ready for the state Supreme Court to review. This is the first step towards getting the question in front of voters on the November 2014 ballot.

Final language for the proposed ballot initiative has been approved by Morgan, he said on Friday, reports Scott Powers at the Orlando Sentinel. Morgan said he is ready to send the language to the Florida Supreme Court for approval so that People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) can begin a petition drive.

The effort still has many hurdles to clear before getting on the ballot. Once the Florida Supreme Court approves the language of the initiative, supporters must get 788,000 signatures from registered Florida voters -- then come more reviews.

But sending the language to the Florida Supreme Court, which Morgan said would happen late Friday or on Monday, is a sign that the effort is getting serious, a first for Florida.

The language would allow doctors to authorize marijuana to treat severe symptoms or drug side effects associated with cancer, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. It would also allow physicians to authorize cannabis in other unspecified cases involving life-threatening illnesses.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Supporters Sense Impending Victory

Photo - Florida: Medical Marijuana Campaign Gets Financial BackersBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana advocates in Florida sense that 2014 will be the year they finally achieve their goal.

"Florida is ready to explode," said Jodi James, executive director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, reports Mary Wozniak at the News-Press. "We firmly believe that Florida patients will have legal access to cannabis by November 2014."

State lawmakers may be preempted by the people after a medical marijuana bill died in committee in the 2013 legislative session. Sponsor Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) said last week he plans to bring the measure back for another try next year; he said he could also propose a constitutional amendment to legalize medicinal cannabis.

But if the drive to collect just over 683,000 voter signatures takes off, the matter could be put on the ballot for the voters to decide. The effort had suffered from a lack of resources until political fundraiser John Morgan, who heads up the Morgan and Morgan law firm, recently joined the cause.

Morgan promised to contribute funds from his own pocket, as well as to raise money from other donors to pay for the signature-gathering drive, estimated to cost more than $3 million. Backers believe Morgan's political and financial influence could lead them to victory.

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