Get ready for John Morgan's Traveling Marijuana Medicine Show 2.0.
United For Care, which last year put a failed constitutional amendment proposal on the November election ballot, expects to begin its main petition push in a matter of weeks to get a new proposal to voters in November 2016.
The organization, chaired by Orlando lawyer Morgan, already has a few volunteers pushing petitions. Yet it has raised little money so far for what would have to be a multimillion-dollar effort to get the issue on the ballot.
Still, it has resources from the failed 2014 campaign, including thousands of now-experienced, impassioned volunteers, ballot language that already has passed legal muster and Morgan's checkbook.
"We'll make an announcement at some point here shortly," said Ben Pollara, the campaign's manager. "I'm going back and forth with Morgan. But I would expect that to launch sometime in June."
That would put the organization about six months ahead of pace for last year's initiative. That proposal to legalize marijuana for medical use ended up getting 58 percent of the statewide vote last November, but needed 60 percent to be adopted.
Pollara said he expects the organization to hire professional petitioners this summer. He hopes they will finish gathering 100,000 voter signatures within weeks to trigger a new review by the Florida Supreme Court, which is required before an issue can go on the ballot. Then the paid signature collectors would continue working Florida's streets until they gather the other 600,000 to get the measure back on the ballot.
Last year United For Care paid the California-based PCI Consultants about $3.5 million to hire professional signature gatherers. Through the end of April this year, United For Care had raised only $50,000.
Pollara said he expects Morgan and other big donors to step up to pay those costs when needed. In 2013 and '14, Morgan donated about half of the organization's $8 million.
United For Care's volunteers now include campaign veterans such as Jeanette Bokland, 54, of Orlando. A former registered nurse, Bokland admitted she reluctantly turned to medical marijuana as an illegal part of her treatment for stage-three breast cancer in spring 2014.
She said chemotherapy had her continuously nauseous, dizzy, weak, unable to eat or sleep, adding, "It sucked the life out of you." She considered quitting it.
That's when a friend brought her medical marijuana candy smuggled from Colorado.
"Out of desperation, I didn't know what to do, I nibbled on some," she said.
"My goodness, all of the sudden, everything settled down, and [so did] the anxiety that goes with feeling that nausea," she said. "I could concentrate. I could eat a little. I didn't feel 100 percent, but I felt pretty darn normal."
Bokland said she only used it for a few weeks. Then she joined last summer's campaign. Now in remission, she said she's ready again, saying she loves to argue her case person-to-person, to convince people.
The new United For Care push comes after a judge last week affirmed Florida's limited medical marijuana law, which would allow for the cultivation, production, sale and use of non-euphoric cannabis drugs for a limited number of illnesses, principally epilepsy. But other proposals that might have stolen some of the thunder from Morgan's crusade have gone nowhere.
The most talked-about bill, Senate Bill 7066, proposed greatly increasing the number of illnesses, and increasing the maximum-allowable level of THC, the chemical that gets people high. It reached the floor of the Senate for a final vote but stalled there.
The new United For Care proposal has some changes.
The title now refers to "Debilitating Medical Conditions," rather than for "Certain Medical Conditions." This time writers adopted some language the Florida Supreme Court suggested to describe other qualifying illnesses. The new wording also requires that a doctor have a parent's written consent to certify medical marijuana for a minor.
The changes don't impress opponent Calvina Fay, director of the Drug Free America Foundation in Saint Petersburg, which helped lead the successful opposition last year.
"It's not anything really different," she said. "I see at least 14 fatal flaws in it. It's still a pig. It's still a constitutional amendment that, if it were to pass and later voters realized it was a mistake, well, you can't undo it."
She said the amendment still would violate federal law and international treaties and still could create a huge marijuana industry. It still has what she considers inadequate language to restrict access by children.
In 2014 the opposition was fueled largely by a $2.5 million donation from Las Vegas casino magnate and conservative financier Sheldon Adelson. She expects him to step in again.
"Adelson assured us he's in this time for the long haul. He said he is very concerned about what he is seeing," Fay said.
donate to this gentleman Sheldon Adelson at his Casino, but don’t smoke marijuana ?
I have seen families lose everything over Gambling.