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Radical Rant: Pill Profits Pit Platshorn & Patients Opposite Pot-Hating Publix Heiress

Russ Belville

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Florida seniors need their medical marijuana! But will negative ads from pharmaceutical profiteers doom the campaign? Can grassroots activists beat back the one percent? Learn how you can join in a public protest on Saturday, August 13 to help our seniors!

Last election season, two years ago, the Sunshine State looked like a slam-dunk to pass a medical marijuana law. It was getting high-70 percent support in the polls.

My fishing buddy, Robert Platshorn, was on the front lines, working tirelessly, organizing conferences, and spreading the word about the benefits of medical marijuana, especially for seniors.

Bobby spent 29 years in prison. He was sentenced to essentially the rest of his life way back when Jimmy Carter was President. Since I met him in 2009 upon his release on parole, he has dedicated himself to educating his fellow senior citizens about the benefits of cannabis for medical use.

(Learn more about Bobby’s story in “Square Grouper” and “The Black Tuna Diaries” and his activism, including the infomercial “Should Grandma Smoke Pot?” at TheSilverTour.org.)

Seniors have a lot of aches, pain, sleep difficulty, inflammation, and other issues just from aging. Then add in all the illnesses and disabilities seniors face. Seniors end up spending a lot of money on prescription drugs.

What better remedy for our seniors than medical marijuana?

The amendment campaign in 2014 was riding high, but there was always a catch. Amendments in Florida need to get a 60 percent vote to be added to the state constitution.

Then along came Sheldon Adelson, an anti-pot billionaire from Nevada, who dumped over $4 million into ad campaigns against the medical marijuana initiative.

That initiative lost by only getting 57 percent of the vote.

Now here we are again with a medical marijuana amendment initiative in Florida. It’s on the ballot and it even has the same name, “Amendment 2”. And once again it is getting high-70 percent support in the polls.

And once again, we have an anti-pot billionaire dumping money into a campaign to defeat it.

This time, the billionaire is Carol Jenkins Barnett, the daughter of the founder of the Publix grocery chain. Her family trust recently donated $800,000 to the fight against medical marijuana in Florida.

Sadly, Carol Jenkins Barnett stepped down from her role as the chairman of the board of Publix this year at the age of 59 to fight her battle against early-onset Alzheimer’s disease – something we’re now learning medical marijuana may be the best treatment for. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

So what is it that motivates her to fight medical marijuana?

Publix is based in Lakeland, Florida, and is the largest grocery chain in the state, accounting for 43 percent of all grocery sales. To give you an idea of their dominance, their number two competitor in groceries is WalMart with 29 percent of the market.

But Publix doesn’t just sell groceries. Like many supermarket chains, they have in-store pharmacies.

Publix officials and the family trust insist that the donation in no way reflects the views of Publix and is simply “a personal donation.”

That hasn’t satisfied Bobby, who has enlisted the help of NORML of Florida and the legalization group Regulate Florida to organize demonstrations this Saturday, August 13 in Broward County, Tampa, Orlando, and other locations upstate (details in the link).

“We want them to clearly state where they stand,” says Michael Minardi of Regulate Florida. “Their customers deserve the truth.”

“I understand that when medical cannabis is available, Publix pharmacies may be negatively affected,” added Karen Seeb Goldstein of NORML of Florida. “This is a matter of putting patients’ interests ahead of profits.”

Indeed, a recent study showed that states with medical cannabis access found doctors prescribing over 1,800 fewer painkillers and hundreds fewer prescriptions for other common drugs annually.

“Publix is a great chain… but they have to realize that medical marijuana is an important medicine, especially for the state’s huge senior population,” Bobby told me when he announced the one-day boycott, which he believes will eventually cost Publix more than the $800,000 the trust donated.

If you know anyone in Florida, pass this along to them, especially if they have their prescriptions filled at Publix. Encourage them to move their prescriptions and their shopping to the WalMart or the Winn-Dixie or any other market.

“If they fail to get the message,” Bobby warns, “we will be back. Again and again.”

I don’t doubt that. Anybody who spent 29 years in prison is bound to have plenty of patience, determination, and resolve.

Photo: Lochfoot

Last week’s Radical Rant: Attorney General Chris Christie?!

 

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