Pubdate: Sun, 31 Aug 2014
Source: Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Copyright: 2014 Sun-Sentinel Company
Author: Dan Sweeney
Page : 1B


With the primaries over, Florida voters will be focusing on the November 
ballot and political action committees will be spending millions of 
dollars on advertising to help sway them.

But on one of the major issues - the medical marijuana initiative called 
Amendment 2 - the primary support PAC suffers from a serious monetary 

People United for Medical Marijuana and its public face, United for 
Care, have raised almost $6 million through Aug. 21. On the other side 
of the issue, Drug Free Florida has raised about $3.2 million.

But United for Care spent millions on the petition drive to get the 
amendment on the ballot, and such drives are expensive undertakings in a 
state as large as Florida. The medical marijuana supporters only have 
about $600,000 in the bank now, according to campaign finance records.

"We've had a statewide presence on the ground since Labor Day of last 
year, and we're continuing to do that. People are going out every day 
and speaking one-on-one and in small groups," said Ben Pollara, the 
campaign manager of United for Care. "We will have an advertising 
campaign, it will be effective, but our advantage is that most 
Floridians are already with us."

Drug Free Florida, on the other hand, has nearly all of its money - 
about $2.8 million - available.

Its spokeswoman, Sarah Bascom, declined to say how exactly the money 
would be spent, but noted, "we will be doing everything a typical 
statewide campaign will be doing to get the word out on why we think 
this amendment is bad for Florida."

Bascom and her PAC have their work cut out for them. According to the 
most recent poll, released July 28 by Quinnipiac University, 88 percent 
of Floridians support medical marijuana.

And even with almost $3 million, Drug Free, like People United, will 
have to raise funds between now and November to run a statewide campaign.

"If I had the choice I'd rather have the $3 million," said Florida 
Atlantic University professor Kevin Wagner, an expert on Florida 
politics. "But that money doesn't translate directly into media buys. A 
lot of that money will go to pay consultants."

The majority of the money for both PACs has come from a single source.

Las Vegas casino king Sheldon Adelson donated $2.5 million to Drug Free 

"The history is that these anti-medical marijuana campaigns have not 
been well funded," Pollara said. "[Adelson's contribution] is more than 
the sum total of every dollar spent against medical marijuana campaigns 
going back the last 18 years."

The law firm of Morgan and Morgan contributed more than $3.5 million to 
People United. The firm's founder, John Morgan, is chairperson of the 
group and one of its lawyers is Democratic gubernatorial candidate 
Charlie Crist.

"The medical marijuana issue is not as controversial as it used to be," 
Wagner said. "The biggest controversy about this amendment seems to be 
that it's a stalking horse to drive turnout for Charlie Crist. 
Democrats, whether they planned it or not, are hoping support for the 
marijuana amendment will drive young people to vote and while they're 
there, they'll check off Charlie Crist."

Pollara says that is not why Morgan began the campaign.

"I think it's disrespectful to the reasons why John is doing this," 
Pollara said. "His brother Tim has been in a wheelchair since he was 18 
years old, and he wants his brother to be able to get medication without 
having to rely on these addicting painkillers."
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