By John Schroyer
The November election will mark a “tipping point” for cannabis legalization in the United States, medical marijuana advocate John Morgan predicted Tuesday.
“The interesting thing about a tipping point is you never really see it coming,” Morgan told the Spring 2016 Marijuana Business Conference & Expo. “In the world of marijuana, we are at those tipping point days.”
Morgan, a deep-pocketed Orlando attorney, has spent roughly $7.5 million of his own money on this November’s MMJ ballot initiative in Florida as well as a failed 2014 effort.
“There is no state in the union that is more ready for this industry than Florida,” Morgan said.
His comments come as a slew of states could – or will – vote on legalizing recreational marijuana in November, including: California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Michigan, and Arizona.
Other than Florida, voters in Missouri and Ohio could pass judgement on MMJ legalization.
“This is a global cannabis movement. If California passes, that’s going to ripple across the globe,” Zeta Ceti, CEO of Green Rush Consulting in California, said at a separate panel discussion on the election during the conference’s afternoon session.
According to Chris Walsh, editorial director of Marijuana Business Daily, sales for the California recreational market alone would exceed the existing level of nationwide sales for both medical and recreational cannabis.
In his speech, Morgan compared a “tipping point” with a snowflake hitting a mountain.
“And then there’s this avalanche,” he added. “And you go, my god, it was just a snowflake. No. It was years and years of built-up snow and pent-up energy just waiting for that one snowflake”
Morgan’s candid style and blunt observations drew laughter from the audience.
But he also hit on serious topics, starting with an explanation of why he’s spending so much of his own money on MMJ: His brother became a quadriplegic after an accident at age 18, and has used cannabis to help cope with his symptoms for years.
His father, who suffered from cancer, also eventually decided to try MMJ, which helped him regain his appetite.
“I know it works, because I have seen it, firsthand,” Morgan said.
Morgan said he learned several lessons from the near-passage of MMJ at the Florida ballot box in 2014. The campaign is applying those lessons this time around.
For instance, he said, he’s focusing on educating seniors, a key electoral demographic and one that would also arguably benefit the most from MMJ. A mistake in 2014, he added, was relying too heavily on the youth vote, which didn’t materialize on Election Day.
The campaign also may need more cash to get it past voters in the fall, Morgan said, because Florida requires a 60% supermajority to approve a ballot measure that changes the state constitution, as the MMJ initiative would.
Also, some dedicated opposition has emerged, though Morgan said the number of opponents this time around will be smaller than it was two years ago.
A Florida campaign with ties to casino mogul Sheldon Adelson – who helped defeat the 2014 medical cannabis initiative in the Sunshine State – plans to raise at least $10 million to fight MMJ legalization this fall.
Morgan said, however, the Florida sheriffs won’t be fighting the initiative the way they did in 2014, because the legislature has tried and failed to expand a limited CBD program it first passed in 2014.
The real opposition to legalizing medical cannabis, Morgan said, is coming from pharmaceutical companies.
“Who has the most to lose?” he asked, before answering his own question. “Big Pharma.”
If the Florida MMJ initiative is approved, Morgan said, an estimated 400,000-500,000 patients in Florida will be able to obtain legal relief from marijuana. That’s a sizable customer base for any would-be company in the Sunshine State, and Morgan expects any company that sticks with the cannabis trade will come out a winner.
“You all, who are in this marijuana business, if you stay with it for the long haul, are going to make a small fortune,” he said. “You’re also going to do a great thing, because you’re going to employ people who are losing jobs to technology. You’re going to raise the taxes in your cities and your states.”
John Schroyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org