The well-funded campaign opposing Florida’s medical marijuana ballot initiative released a new video advertisement calling the proposal a “scam to legalize pot.”
Vote No on 2, the group behind the video, successfully defeated a similar medical marijuana measure in 2014. This year, they hope to raise a whopping $10 million—$2 million more than the amount that helped them narrowly defeat medical access two years ago. Their 2014 opposition campaign was the best funded marijuana legalization campaign yet, and this year’s is poised to be even bigger.
Heading the campaign are the notorious prohibition-profiteers Mel and Betty Sembler, the couple behind Drug Free America Program that has cashed out on employee drug-testing programs and treatment centers marred by sexual, physical, and psychological abuse. And they’re going hard against the initiative, which needs good money and the right rhetoric to win in the potentially game-changing state.
Indicative of the naysayers narrative, the ad unveiled Monday uses Google search results and dispensary reviews in California to suggest that Amendment 2 has nothing to do with helping sick patients, but will instead flood the state with goofy-named pot shops and the hippie freaks of Venice Beach. “Kush Mart? These guys aren’t even trying,” the video says. “Oh, sure. Looks like just a reputable doctor’s office.”
Noting that “The average medical marijuana card holder in California is 32-year-old white male with a history of alcohol and marijuana use,” the video attempts to invalidate the the medicinal benefits of marijuana.
It is well-understood in the activist community that medical marijuana is a stepping stone to full legalization, but activists for legalizing the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes still purport marijuana’s medicinal qualities. The ease of obtaining a medical marijuana card in California does not invalidate the benefits of medical marijuana for people with serious or chronic illnesses like Multiple Sclerosis or Dravet syndrome, which causes life-threatening seizures in children.
But the opposition campaign’s message that medical marijuana legalization is about making money, not treating patients, receives some benefit from the face of the campaign to legalize medical marijuana. John Morgan, a Florida lawyer and Democratic campaign funder whose cutting words about the campaign were off-putting in 2014, may again lack the luster to mobilize the state to support an initiative challenged by potentially $10 million in opposition.
At the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo in Orlando last week, Morgan was open about his initiative’s need for cash to go up against the Semblers.
“We need money,” he told the crowed bluntly.
Morgan then put his potentially problematic arrogance on display by mocking Mel Sembler for aiming to raise $10 million without putting much of his own cash into the campaign.
“He’s now become this tiny little man, this angry little man, asking for money,” Morgan said,
Morgan’s language also did not do much to challenge the Vote No on 2’s assertion that the initiative is about making money, not serving patients
“This is going to happen. I see a lot of young folks, 20, 30, 40; this is going to be your business. This is going to be your industry,” Morgan said. “So it’s a business you need to stay in.”
To prevent a repeat of the narrow loss of 2014 and achieve a major victory in the hugely important “bellwether state,” Morgan and his camp must win the argument over the intent of a medical marijuana program, and doing so requires cash and rhetorical savvy.