A $10M fight in the Sunshine State: Q&A with John Morgan on Florida MMJ legalization

By John Schroyer

John Morgan has been, by his own description, a “one-man band” for medical marijuana in Florida over the past four years, having bankrolled two separate campaigns to legalize MMJ in the state.

The first, in 2014, fell just short of the 60% threshold it needed at the ballot box to become law.

At least part of that was due to casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who put several million dollars of his own money into fighting MMJ legalization in Florida.

This time around, Morgan and his campaign, United for Care, are again facing the possibility of going up against some well-funded opposition: Longtime GOP fundraiser Mel Sembler recently pledged to raise $10 million to fight the MMJ initiative.

Marijuana Business Daily caught up with Morgan – the industry keynote at the spring Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Orlando next month – to get his thoughts on the opposition, potential business opportunities in Florida if MMJ is fully legalized, and whether or not he’ll stay involved with cannabis advocacy after the election.

Here are excerpts of that conversation, edited for length and clarity.

How is United for Care going to beat a well-financed opposition campaign this time around?

One of the things you hope is that truth trumps money. The second thing is there are a lot of marijuana businesses, potential businesses out there, and they’re going to have to step up.

A lot of things have to happen, and I think they have. The people of Florida have seen the legislature not do their job. They’re much more educated about it.

We’ve tweaked the language and the loopholes they talked about. And one thing we’ve found is that if all the money in the world mattered, then Jeb Bush would be the (GOP presidential) nominee. And Donald Trump has done it with almost no money.

The job we have to do is educating seniors who don’t really understand that this is for them and their loved ones. They’re the ones who are going to need this, more than anybody, because they’re the ones who are going to have cancer and ALS and Parkinson’s and all that.

That’s the job I’ve got to do that I didn’t do well last time.

Why are you putting so much of your own money into MMJ legalization?

Because I believe in it. I believe this is more important than giving money to the Cattle Barons Ball.

I give millions of dollars away to charity. That’s well-documented. So my philanthropy is not limited to this. But just like when I spent a lot of my time and my money and my resources trying to get Barack Obama elected, to me, the payoff was huge, because we got Obamacare.

So to me, day one, 400,000 people benefit (if the MMJ  measure passes). Where am I ever going to get that bang for my philanthropic buck?

Do you have any kind of limit as to how much of your own money you’re prepared to spend?

Nah. It’s like when I go to happy hour: I don’t know how much I’m going to drink. It all just kind of happens because I’m having a good time.

What do you think about big national groups like the Marijuana Policy Project essentially sitting on the sidelines in Florida?

I can’t speak for them. I’m kind of arm-in-arm with them, and I’d welcome their money, but they have to realize that I’m one little trial lawyer in a real big country, and if they think I can do it all by myself, well, let ‘em think it. We’ll see if the truth trumps money.

Assuming the amendment is approved by voters, are you going to continue to be involved in medical marijuana advocacy or the industry in any way?

No. I’m thinking about having a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. I’m more interested in that than trying to implement the (MMJ) law.

There are so many lobbyists. Every law firm in Florida, and I’m talking about Republican lobbyists, they’re lined up for this. So I don’t need to worry about it getting implemented, because money makes things happen.

What are the business opportunities and possible size of the market in Florida if the amendment passes this year?

Gigantic. The first thing about Florida is, we are the new California. We have no taxes. We have no earthquakes. We have no fires. And the weather, it never gets cold here. This is paradise found.

We’re also the foliage capital of the world. Plants and ferns, that’s what we grow. So there’s opportunity for grows, there’s opportunity for production, there’s opportunity for merchandising, there’s opportunity for retail, and as the Internet takes away millions of jobs and millions in tax dollars – because the Internet’s not taxed – this is the opportunity to kill a lot of birds with one stone.

And that’s what’s going to happen. Real estate values are going to go up, spaces are going to be rented, warehouses are going to be rented, people who have crops that are failing are going to be back in business.

How can those already in the industry help get this passed?

When they see the money (from the opposition roll in), they’re going to have to say, “Well, do we step up and play or do we not? Do we help John and help ourselves?” Because it’s not happening again by me.

What do you think the cannabis industry is currently doing well, and where could it improve?

I think what it’s doing well is that in every state that it’s occurred in, we’ve all seen that the world didn’t end. Crime didn’t increase. Deaths didn’t go on the rise. We’ve seen opiate deaths go down. Opiate addiction goes down.

Every time a new state adopts it, and you fly into that state, and it’s not on fire with crime, it just shows it works.

How long do you think it’s going to be before the federal government takes action on marijuana?

Ten years. It’s got to be a perfect storm. It’s got to be like, Hillary’s president, and they control the Senate and they control the House, like Obamacare, where they had 60 senators.

Guess who’s really pulling against (MMJ legalization): the pharmaceutical industry, who’s killing us and hooking us, and El Chapo. That’s who doesn’t want this to happen. That’s the crazy thing.

What do you think of the state legislature’s extremely limited MMJ program, which has been slow to roll out over the past couple years?

They’re just thwarting their own mandate. They want people to grow who’ve been growing for 30 years. You don’t know how to grow it, but you’re going to grow it.

You’ve got people that are having to move from Florida to go to Colorado and California to get the oil for their children who are severely damaged by epilepsy, but these (lawmakers) won’t even get off their hands to do that for these children. It’s so obscene.

John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]

8 comments on “A $10M fight in the Sunshine State: Q&A with John Morgan on Florida MMJ legalization
  1. Peace Warden on

    Florida is the last bastion of the good old boy network and attitudes of entitlement are so obvious. Besides the Pharmaceutical industry, the for-profit prison system will lose their pipeline of young African American Men and Hispanic men if the laws change concerning Cannabis in any way.

    Reply
  2. Michelle DeMello on

    Mr. John Morgan is right! The state needs this for the people who suffer from all sorts of illness and the Vets need it for PTSD. We stand behind John Morgan. Florida needs the economic income to boot.
    The people here cannot live on just tourist. This could really help people who are sick and need natural organic herbal help.

    Reply
  3. jacqueline nulty on

    God Bless you for trying to help those children to adults who need the oil and for VETS who have delayed stress syndrome from the wars and combat and those who were tore up in battle to ease pain hopefully with less opioids and morphine. those drugs create so many bowel and heart stress problems. it shouldn’t be for end of life people but for everyone with pain and seizures and bad disc and scoliosis and arthritis to ease pain. this drug if it must be called that,(I feel it’s more a herb) has been around since the beginning of time and been used by natives, Egyptians, and so many other groups through time. government just wants to control to much of our lives. I thank and respect you for having the brass to stand up and help so many.

    Reply
  4. Jeff Brown on

    Cannabis is the most useful plant on the planet; food, clothing, shelter, energy, medicine, insight, re-creation. It has been mankinds companion and helpmate since the beginning. Any law against it is a crime against humanity, creation and the Creator. Thankyou John Morgan for all you do. It would be nice if other big organizations or individuals will support this effort in Florida. Florida is the third most populous state in the nation and a win would be huge for the southern states as well as the nation.

    Reply
  5. Fred Carr on

    A certain percentage of MONEY PEOPLE back anti Cannabis legeslation because they PROFIT from illegal use of illegal DRUGS. HOW ABOUT THAT!

    Reply
  6. yvonneforsman on

    Is Mr Morgan aware of the fact that the FL politicians require from the state approved growers to use pesticides??? Does Mr Morgan know that cancer doctors say pesticides and herbicides lead to cancer? If other states, such as Illinois, understand the importance of pesticide free cannabis medicine, how come FL doesn’t??? Here is FL: “..The growing of low-THC cannabis or medical cannabis, including the use of pesticides..” https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/BillSummaries/2016/html/1342

    and here is Illinois:
    “Understanding the Labs
    Cultivators are required to have their products tested by 3rd party in-state labs. Each batch is tested for pesticides and mycotoxins, and no product that fails will be allowed on the market – which is a great comfort that we are only selling healthy medicine.” http://dispensary33.com/lab-report-primer/

    And here is the cancer series with interviewer Ty Bollinger where medical doctors explain how pesticides lead to cancer: https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/

    Mr Morgan should file a lawsuit against the state of Florida for growing the cannabis medicine with pesticides and in that way causing cancer in the future FL cannabis patients! This is NOT acceptable!

    I for one cannot use the FL cannabis although I am disabled b/c of chronic spasms and pain. I am a cancer survivor. I can live with the spasms, as I have now for ten years now, but getting cancer would kill me! I feel discriminated against by the FL politicians! I protest!

    Reply

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