Floridians will decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical use in their state next week and, whatever the outcome, two men will deserve most of the credit (or blame) for bankrolling the fight.
The single largest contributor on either side of the fight over Amendment 2, which grants patients with “debilitating diseases” access to medical marijuana, is billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who, new campaign finance filings show, added $1 million to the $4 million he’s already spent in support of the campaign to defeat the measure. Adelson, the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands and America’s 12th richest person, is responsible for 85 percent of the $5.8 million raised by Drug Free Florida, the organization leading the charge against the measure and headed by former Reagan drug czar Carlton Turner. For Adelson, that amount of spending is roughly equivalent to a person worth $1 million writing a $157 campaign contribution check.
The man largely behind the yes campaign is personal injury lawyer John Morgan, who mostly through his law firm has contributed more than half of the $7.6 million raised by People United for Medical Marijuana. Morgan has toured the state and participated in debates to advocate for the measure, which he says he supports so people like his brother Tim Morgan, a quadriplegic, can get legal access to marijuana for pain relief.
Because of Adelson’s outsized influence, only about 15 percent of the money raised by the no campaign has come from within the state. In contrast, about 91 percent of the money raised by the yes campaign was raised in-state. Nineteen out of every 20 contributors to People United for Medical Marijuana listed a Florida home address. A review of campaign finance data shows about 80 individuals or organizations have contributed to the no campaign, while roughly 5,600 have donated to the yes campaign. (Note: some may be double-counted due to typos or slight differences in how their names were entered.)
While the results of more than a dozen polls compiled by Ballotpedia and conducted over the last year have all shown support for the measure outweighing opposition, Amendment 2 must receive 60 percent of the vote next Tuesday to pass.