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Marijuana battles heats up: Sheldon Adelson v. John Morgan



Want proof that the Amendment 2/medical marijuana campaign is also about the governor's race -- and maybe even the Indian gaming deal?

Take a look at the $2.5 million check cut on May 29 by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to the campaign committee opposing Amendment 2, the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Florida for medical purposes. 

Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands gambling empire, had been a huge contributor to the campaign of Gov. Rick Scott until the governor started negotiating the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe earlier this year. Because the governor wanted to avoid signing a controversial bill in this delicate re-election year, the compact talks allowed the governor to ask legislators to effectively put a halt to the gaming rewrite proposed by legislators this past legislative session. That, in turn, led to rumors that Adelson was prepared to abandon efforts to bring a destination resort to Florida. 

But Adelson's contribution to the anti-marijuana group is a sign that he's maybe having second thoughts about pulling out of Florida. The group, the Drug Free Florida Committee, was started by long-time GOP fundraiser Mel Sembler and his wife Betty. The big donors are all Republicans -- Sembler $100,000, Jenkins family (of Publix) $100,000 and Neal Communities $100,000 -- and now Adelson.

Promoting the issue is big time Crist supporter John Morgan, a Democrat and Orlando trial lawyer who has financed much of the proponent's $3.1 million campaign. He promises to spend more. 

“We already know that this will be an expensive campaign given proponents of legalization have said they will spend whatever it takes,'' said Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for the Vote No on 2 Campaign. "Unfortunately, by their standards, whatever it takes means getting a loophole-ridden amendment on the ballot and cleverly fooling voters into believing that pot will only be available to those with a ‘debilitating illness,’ when it is written so broadly that it will really mean pot for any purpose if it passes.”

As a billionaire who has crusaded most notably against online gambling – which competes with his casino empire – Adelson isn’t as well known as an anti-drug crusader. But he and his wife have established an opiate-addiction treatment clinic in Las Vegas known as the Dr. Myriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment and Research.

But in the nation of Israel – a world leader in medical marijuana studies and use – Adelson’s money has helped further research into medical cannabis. Researchers with the Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases at Tel Aviv University have reportedly made advances in studying how marijuana and its associated chemicals can potentially mitigate brain injuries or reduce the symptoms of degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.

According to a study, led by the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases at Tel Aviv University, "some of the chemical compounds found in marijuana can help treat MS-like diseases in mice."

-- Staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 9:10am]


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