The “Vote No on 2” campaign against the medical marijuana Florida constitutional amendment has launched a web site and web video denouncing the amendment as a ploy to legalize marijuana for “money for dope dealers.”
The Vote No organization argues that the amendment would allow unrestricted sale and use of marijuana by anyone, including minors, in a virtually unregulated setting like the one that followed a medical marijuana measure in California.
Its web video extensively uses scenes from the boardwalk in Venice Beach, where shops have sprung up selling marijuana and storefront doctors sell certificates allowing users to buy it.
Backers of the amendment deny those contentions, saying the amendment was designed to allow only closely regulated medical use under rules to be set up by the state Health Department and Legislature, and specifically to avoid a California-style scenario.
One supporter of the amendment, state Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, raised another objection to the video Thursday, saying its use of a black, former drug dealer stoking fears of unregulated drug sales injects “a racial undertone” into the debate.
In the video, Dee Reed, identified as a minister and former drug dealer, says, “If the Amendment 2 was passed ... back in the day that I was pushing drugs, you just legalized me to sell and distribute drugs to all ages -- all ages -- you would have never stopped me.”
Braynon responded, “I think it’s definitely playing on a racial undertone, trying to play on people’s fear. It’s ridiculous. I just don’t understand why that’s where they chose to go.”
Veteran Republican Orlando political consultant Tre’ Evers, who’s working for the Vote No group, denied that.
“Of course it’s not” a racial argument, he said. “The video has men and women of different ethnicities speaking on the issue, including a black educator.”
Reed, he said, is “an outstanding example in his community of somebody who’s come a long way from where he used to be, and he uses that in his ministry.”
In the video, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, head of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, which opposes the move, says, “Amendment 2 is not about those who are very sick. It’s about money for dope dealers.”
Also invoved in the opposition is Stephanie Haridopolos, a Brevard county family practice physician and wife of former state Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
The web site launch and the hiring of Evers’ firm, done with $100,000 start-up contribution from St. Petersburg Republican and anti-drug activist Mel Sembler, signal the beginning of what could become a full-fledged campaign against the measure.
The United for Care campaign in favor of the amendment is far ahead in total fundraising, but has spent most of its money -- mostly contributed by Orlando superlawyer John Morgan -- on a petition drive to get on the ballot.
Morgan has said he’ll provide further funding to run a campaign in favor of the amendment, and Sembler. though he’s made no public commitment, has left open the possibility he’ll do the same.
“The website and video are both filled with half-truths, distortions and outright lies,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager of United for Care. “Floridians deserve a debate based on the facts, not disingenuous scare tactics.”
His group has issued a point-by-point response to the Vote No arguments, including saying minors would not be able to get physician certificates to buy marijuana without parental consent because Florida law prohibits physicians treating minors without parental permission.