TAMPA — Prominent trial lawyer John Morgan told a crowd at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club on Friday he's confident the constitutional amendment he's sponsoring to legalize medical use of marijuana in Florida will pass, and dismissed the suggestion of significant opposition.
Morgan cited polling showing large majorities in favor. Asked about potential opposition, he said, “It's become a Republican-Democrat issue,” with Republicans, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, opposing it -- even though, he said, “Deep down, they know it's right.”
He said he believes Bondi and other Republicans have been misled by “political hacks” saying they should oppose the issue for political reasons.
“I think it's a mistake for the Republicans,” he added. “If we had to polygraph every Republican legislator in the state, how many of them do you think smoked marijuana illegally? The hypocrisy is beyond puke factor.”
Morgan said potential opposition would likely come only from “big pharma,” meaning the pharmaceutical industry, “the for-profit correctional institutions, who've made an industry of locking up poor people, and maybe the Colombian Cartel.”
Morgan, known for philanthropy as well as mostly Democratic political contributions, told the crowd he has spent $4 million on the initiative so far.
Anti-drug activists, including the St. Petersburg-based Drug-Free America Foundation, however, have said they expect organized opposition will form.
“I find his claim that people are going to oppose it for financial reasons laughable,” said the foundation's executive director, Calvina Fay. “Really, if you think about it, the people behind this initiative can make a lot of money off it if it passes. If it fails, the people opposing it will make nothing.”
“We are not funded by the pharmaceutical industry,” she said.
Tiger Bay Club President Gary Dolgin said Bondi was invited to debate Morgan at the club's meeting Friday but declined. Bondi's office couldn't confirm or deny that Friday afternoon.
Morgan will debate the issue at the University of Tampa ON Monday along with experts on both sides. The 7:30 p.m. event in the Martinez Athletics Center is free for the public.
Bondi has publicly opposed the amendment, including opposing the ballot wording before the state Supreme Court, contending it would allow widespread marijuana use, not just the tightly controlled medicinal use sponsors advocate.
The court overruled her argument that the wording was unclear and deceptive, so it will be on the state's Nov. 4 general election ballot.
Morgan also scoffed at the widespread accusation that he's sponsoring the amendment to help drive turnout of young, Democratic-oriented voters in the election. Charlie Crist, an employee of the Morgan & Morgan law firm, is expected to be the Democratic nominee against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
“I like Charlie Crist, but I don't like him that much,” Morgan said.
Morgan said the initiative could have failed in the petition-gathering stage or before the Supreme Court, rendering his spending a waste. If his goal had been only to help Crist, he said, “I'd just write him a check for $4 million.”
A November Quinnipiac University poll indicated 82 percent of Florida voters support the measure, which must get 60 percent to pass. Morgan said he believes the 82 percent figure will drop during the campaign.