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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Medical marijuana group's October haul: 337K



Cash continues to flow to the group trying to legalize medical marijuana in next November’s election.

In October, United for Care, the group sponsoring ballot language for medical pot, raised $337,293, according to financial reports made available Tuesday.

That brings the annual tally up to more than $2.2 million raised by the committee since November 2014, when their last proposal to legalize medical marijuana failed to gain the 60 percent required to amend Florida’s constitution.

As in past months, much of the October money has come from big-ticket donors, notably Orlando lawyer John Morgan.

This month alone, Morgan contributed $237,979. And he’s promising to donate $9 for every dollar contributed through the end of the year.

Other big checks: $40,000 from Coral Cables resident Barbara Stiefel, who has been a major donor to United for Care since 2013; $10,000 from Richard Shevelow, who reports being an engineer; and $5,000 from Sarasota pharmaceutical company AltMed, whose tagline is “The science of medical cannabis.”

Still, the October campaign finance report isn’t all good news: United for Care hasn’t been able to generate the kind of funding it did earlier this year. July’s haul was $770,534. August’s was $437,220.

There’s a big push coming from the committee to raise money this fall. Supporters hope to qualify for next November’s ballot by the end of the year, campaign manager Ben Pollara said. Already, the group has 348,603 signatures on file with the Secretary of State’s office.

The Florida Supreme Court will soon decide whether the ballot language is acceptable. Unlike last time around, Attorney General Pam Bondi isn’t opposing them.

United for Care is on track to make their end-of-year goal, Pollara said. But making the ballot will require another 334,546 petition signatures to be certified by local supervisors of elections, including in 12 of the state’s congressional districts.

And that’s where the money comes in.

The key to getting enough signatures is paying petition gatherers — the folks outside grocery stores and on street corners asking passersby to support medical marijuana.

“To get on the ballot, you have to pay these petition gatherers on a weekly basis,” Polara said. “If you don’t, they stop collecting petitions.”

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 10, 2015 6:51pm]


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