And by “battle royal,” we mean a debate between the heads of the two opposing sides.
John Morgan, the Orland-based attorney and medical marijuana advocate who has poured millions of his own money into getting Amendment 2 passed, will be debating the head of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, Sheriff Grady Judd, tonight in Lakeland.
The debate pits Morgan, who heads United for Care, and Judd, sheriff of Polk County and president of the largest opposition to Amendment 2.
Morgan, whose father and brother had suffered from cancer and injuries and found relief in marijuana for medicinal purposes, has donated almost $4 million of his own money to push legalized medical marijuana in Florida.
Morgan’s brother, Tim, suffered a spinal injury. Confined to a wheelchair and dealing with the many physical pains and ailments that come with his impairment, Tim uses medical cannabis for relief.
“As soon as I smoked that Afghani, it was instantaneous release,” he told New Times back in July. “It was like taking a shot of tequila — that warm feeling — and it just relaxed everything down through my legs.”
Meanwhile, Judd and his group have tied to spread the message that, while Amendment 2 may have good intentions, it is fraught with loopholes that will lead to weed basically being legal to be purchased by just about anyone — even those without serious ailments.
Back in April, the Florida Sheriff’s Association launched a staunch anti-Amendment 2 campaign called “Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot” to derail and end the run to get medical marijuana legalized in Florida. It also created an offshoot group called Drug Free Florida and has gotten heavy-hitting donors to join its anti-weed crusade.
“A vote for Amendment 2 is a vote for legalizing marijuana forever in the state of Florida,” Florida Sheriffs Association president Sheriff Grady Judd says in his appearance in a video the group released in May.
“If there was any doubt, the Florida Supreme Court has already ruled that the amendment will only be used in cases of debilitating illness,” United for Care’s campaign manager, Ben Pollara, told New Times in response to Judd’s claims. “The purpose of the amendment is to allow the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.”
Just last month, Judd’s group made waves after it posted a photo on its Facebook page claiming that, once the law gets lenient on marijuana, pot cookies will be used as a date rape drug.
The Florida Sheriff’s Association and the Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot are also heavily financially backed, more so than United for Care.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson got things rolling for the anti-medical weed movement with an initial $2.5 million donation. Republican fundraiser Mel Sembler is also backing the group financially.
But the vote will ultimately go to the people of Florida, who, if the majority of the polls are to be believed, heavily back the legalization of medical marijuana.
Now Morgan and Judd will be able to try to sway those who are still on the fence.
The debate will begin at 6 p.m. and be held in the auditorium of the Harrison School for the Arts in Lakeland.
You can watch the debate on Polk Government TV, where it will be streamed live.
Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph.