A petition campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida has gathered enough signatures to put the issue on November’s general election ballot. Just after noon Friday, county elections officials had validated 710,508 signatures — enough to force a vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to allow growth, sale and possession of marijuana for medical uses.
The Florida Supreme Court could still reject the ballot language — and any vote along with it — but organizers expressed jubilation Friday that an expensive, last minute push at least fulfilled the signature requirements for citizen initiated amendments.
“I’ve spent $4 million, hired the best legal minds in the state of Florida, rallied my army of angels and collected more than 1.1 million signatures in five or six months,” said Orlando trial attorney John Morgan, who took over a small, grass roots petition campaign last year and gave it the clout to get on the ballot.
By law, constitutional amendment campaigns for 2014 require signatures from 683,149 registered voters. Morgan’s group, United for Care, added more than 50,000 signatures Friday to exceed that mark.
Morgan, who has paid about three-quarters of United for Care’s expenses, said the petition drive cost twice as much as he planned, largely because signatures lagged by December and the campaign had to gear up.
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Claiming that medical marijuana would be a safer, non-addictive and more-effective alternative to OxyContin, Orlando attorney John Morgan condemned the prescription pain killer in a speech Friday to argue that many of its users would be far better off smoking pot.
Speaking to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, Morgan said that OxyContin, a commonly prescribed – and abused – pain medication, kills 16,000 people a year and addicts many more. He claimed marijuana – which is illegal in Florida and most states – is comparatively harmless and more effective.
“It is truly a disgrace what goes on,” said Morgan, best known for his Morgan & Morgan personal injury law firm, who chairs a statewide campaign to get a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana on the 2014 Florida ballot. “OxyContin is a poison that is put into our system by pharmaceutical companies that make billions and billions of dollars.”
OxyContin is a brand-name drug whose active ingredient is oxycodone, an opioid analgesic. The Centers for Disease Control r. . . . . READ MORE
Since he was diagnosed with AIDS in 2004 and started on drugs to suppress it, Derigo, 59, has grown marijuana plants and juiced the leaves to drink. Unlike smoking dried leaves, he said, it doesn’t get him high.
“I’ve been able to keep my weight on where I’ve seen others just shrivel up and die,” he said.
Derigo has pleaded not guilty to possessing and manufacturing marijuana. His lawyer, Michael Minardi of Stuart, who specializes in such cases, plans a medical necessity defense.
“The war on drugs is a war on the American people,” Derigo said. “People sometimes do less time for murder than for marijuana.”
Cases such as his have led to a new petition drive to put a proposal on the 2014 ballot to legalize medical use of marijuana in Florida.
Similar efforts have failed before, but this one is backed by a . . . . . READ MORE
From the beginning, the legislative push to legalize medical marijuana came with a deep-seated sense of impending doom. “Slim to none,” were the chances state Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, gave a bill she filed this year to legalize medical marijuana.
Her comments came during an April 1 news conference with more than a month left in the legislative session. Her bill, and one filed by state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, did not receive a committee hearing this session. Though supporters hit a legislative brick wall, legalization supporters did maintain a sense of optimism. And for good reason.
Two days before the Capitol news conference, John Morgan, one of the state’s most prominent attorneys, stroked a $100,000 check to People United for Medical Marijuana, a political committee gearing up to push a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. Morgan, who is a top Democratic donor, is also the committee’s chairman.
He got involved because two decades ago his father used marijuana to help his battle with cancer.
“He was against illegal drugs, but my brother Tim said ‘You migh. . . . . READ MORE