For backers of Florida weed measure, a falling out after legislative flop


In November, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a medical marijuana measure. During the just-concluded legislative session, Florida lawmakers just as decisively refused to pass legislation regulating the new industry.

That means the state Department of Health will set about making rules for the new weed sector. Meanwhile, the two most visible backers of Amendment 2 — Orlando attorney John Morgan and political consultant Ben Pollara — have publicly turned on each other, with Morgan calling Pollara “a sellout.”

Pollara put out a postmortem today:

The initial bill out of the House was horrendous. Partially drafted by Mel Sembler and Drug Free America, it was severely restrictive and not only banned smokable, edible, and vapable forms of marijuana, but it also added onerous restrictions on patients, such as a 90-day waiting period and recertification period. It limited treatment to the very specific, enumerated diseases in the constitution, and required insanely detailed justifications from doctors to issue certifications for non-enumerated conditions. It also reinforced the cartel system of marijuana businesses, giving a few big corporate special interests control of the entire market. I believe strongly that this cartel system will ultimately harm patient access through high prices, a lack of diverse products, and no true competition. …


John Morgan is livid over this and blames me entirely for the failure to pass legislation this session. I accept that I deserve some of that blame.

However, the choices we faced were “bad,” “worse” and “the worst” (which is what happened).

Both bills banned smoking marijuana. Both placed onerous restrictions on the doctor-patient relationship. Both contained numerous new criminal penalties for patients and caregivers. Both would have resulted in litigation.

For nearly five years, I have been an advocate for patient access in Florida. I believed that these details would ultimately matter to patients, and that I was representing their interests.

Those interests tended to align with businesses that wanted entry into the Florida market, and were kept from doing so by an incredibly flawed and politically influenced licensee bidding process three years ago; a process that resulted from the legislature passing a low-THC medical marijuana law in 2014, at least in part in an attempt to thwart the campaign to pass Amendment 2 that year. It is no secret that individuals and businesses in the marijuana industry contributed to both United for Care and Florida for Care.

Florida for Care always advocated for a free market that allowed businesses to grow, because that means better patient access. Period.

I am deeply saddened, not just by the failure in Tallahassee, but about how John views what happened and why.

I love and respect John, without whom we would have never passed Amendment 2. We’ve had very heated arguments in private over policy and strategy in the past, but in the end we recovered and kept our eyes on the goal.

Here’s the thing: Though I’m devastated by his anger, I understand it. He’s a passionate guy, and if he wasn’t, we wouldn’t be this far. If our relationship never heals, it will not erase the many years of fighting together on an incredibly important cause. I have a deep respect and affection for John Morgan and I wish him well. Whether he believes it or not, our interests are largely still the same.


Author: Jeff Ostrowski

Jeff covers the economy, banking and biotech for The Palm Beach Post.

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