TAMPA — With less than a month to go before Florida voters decide whether to legalize medical marijuana, attorney John Morgan told an audience of about 100 college students Tuesday that he needs them to get supporters to the polls.
"Get your friends. Grab them by the hair. Grab them by the feet. And make sure they vote on Nov. 4," said Morgan, chairman of United for Care and the most visible proponent of the measure.
He arrived at the University of South Florida's Tampa campus at noon on a red, white and blue bus, emblazoned with the words "For the Patients," a play on his law firm's famous "For the People" advertising slogan.
Met by students cheering and waving signs, Morgan was joined by Cathy Jordan, an ALS patient from Parrish whose husband, Bob, has been supplying her with the marijuana that she says makes her painful condition bearable.
Morgan's bus tour around the state is focused on bringing out support for the measure, a constitutional amendment that will require 60 percent of votes cast to pass. Later Tuesday, he was to appear at a town hall-style meeting in downtown Tampa, and then in Bartow with Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, an outspoken opponent of the medical marijuana measure. He is scheduled to speak today at the Suncoast Tiger Bay luncheon in St. Petersburg.
Morgan told students of how his brother Tim, who was paralyzed 25 years ago, tried numerous pain medications before finding relief with marijuana.
"I don't know why it works," Morgan said, responding to critics who say medical marijuana has not been rigorously tested in the manner of pharmaceuticals. "I don't know why water works. I don't know why aloe works. I don't know why sunshine makes me feel better. It just does."
To critics who say children will have easier access to marijuana if the measure passes, he suggested people should consider the consequences if children get a hold of what's currently in the family medicine cabinet.
Some polling indicates the measure may have a tough time passing, but Morgan insisted those polls don't reflect the youth turnout he is expecting. Generally, the measure is less popular among seniors — the people who tend to vote most.
"My sense is we are going to surprise people," Morgan said. "It's hard to find these (young) people. It's hard to poll these people."
Much criticism of the measure has centered around the fact that it would become part of the state Constitution, making it difficult to change as circumstances evolve.
But Morgan said if medical marijuana doesn't pass at the polls, he sees no chance of the state Legislature stepping in.
"If we don't do it this time, it won't happen for a long, long time. It won't happen until this old man is dead and gone."