Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pot, Solar Energy on Ballot | Medical Marijuana Backers Reaching out to Older Voters | Medical Marijuana Backers Reaching out to Older Voters

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pot, Solar Energy on Ballot | Medical Marijuana Backers Reaching out to Older Voters | Medical Marijuana Backers Reaching out to Older Voters

Article excerpt

2016 ELECTION

Medical marijuana

Amendment 2 is Orlando powerhouse lawyer John Morgan's second attempt to win approval for a medical marijuana amendment that would allow Floridians with a "debilitating medical condition," such as cancer or Parkinson's disease or glaucoma, to use marijuana if prescribed by a doctor.

Morgan, who has bankrolled much of the $9 million raised for the amendment since 2013, said he has learned some expensive lessons from his failed 2014 campaign.

For one, the People United for Medical Marijuana campaign modified the amendment, tightening the language on how it can be prescribed and clarifying that it would not be available to children. The revised language won unanimous support in December from the Florida Supreme Court, a panel that approved the 2014 language in a divided vote.

Morgan, who tried to rally younger voters in 2014 in ways that included traveling to college campuses on a bus tour, said he will be making a stronger case this time with older voters, who dominate Florida elections and who were among the strongest opponents of the prior amendment.

"I don't have to convince 18- to 24-year-olds, but I do have to convince 80- to 84-year-olds. They benefit the most. They're the most likely voter, and they're the mostly likely voter to vote against this," Morgan said when he launched his revamped campaign last year.

Another factor in the outcome of Amendment 2 will be the strength of the opposition.

In 2014, the Drug Free Florida Committee spent more than $6.3 million opposing the amendment, with most of the funding coming from Las Vegas magnate Sheldon Adelson. The committee has been largely inactive since the end of the 2014 campaign.

But Tampa Bay developer Mel Sembler told the Tampa Bay Times he was prepared to raise $10 million to oppose the latest marijuana initiative. That prompted an immediate response from Morgan.

"I've got a message for Mel Sembler: "BRING. IT. ON," Morgan wrote in a recent fund-raising appeal. "Make a donation to the campaign now and send Mel Sembler and all those who would seek to stand in the way of compassion a message."

Solar power

Another ballot battle will involve Amendment 1, which was placed on the ballot by a utility funded group called Consumers for Smart Solar.

It was originally advanced as a counter proposal to another amendment, developed by the Floridians for Solar Choice group, that wanted to make it easier for solar companies to lease panels to homeowners and sell the power those panels generate. But the amendment, which had the support of environmental groups and solar advocates, failed to obtain enough signatures to make the ballot.

The utilities, which have spent more than $7 million on their "Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice" measure, are advancing their amendment that would allow the state and local governments to continue to regulate the solar activity as they do now. …

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