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  1. Florida Politics

Trial attorney Morgan says medical marijuana will pass in November

John Morgan of the law firm Morgan & Morgan speaks at the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa on Friday about his support of the medical marijuana ballot initiative and the politics behind it.
John Morgan of the law firm Morgan & Morgan speaks at the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa on Friday about his support of the medical marijuana ballot initiative and the politics behind it.
Published Feb. 22, 2014

TAMPA — Three weeks after a Florida Supreme Court ruling put medical marijuana on November's election ballot, the multimillionaire trial lawyer behind the effort says he's feeling more "emboldened" than ever that the measure will pass.

Orlando attorney John Morgan, speaking at a meeting of the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa, cited poll numbers and the feedback he's getting from patients hoping for relief and farmers hoping to get in on the cultivation. He noted that even Senate President Don Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican who opposes the initiative, acknowledged recently that in 1984 he bought marijuana for a very sick minister friend.

"What Don Gaetz says is what we've all been saying privately. That if someone we really love … has only one way to get relief, we'll do whatever it takes. That's what Don Gaetz did in 1984," Morgan told reporters before his speech began.

Morgan told the audience his now well-known personal stories behind what he calls a "mission of mercy": efforts to ease the pain of his dying father and his quadriplegic brother. He talked, too, about how medical marijuana would be a much safer, less addictive alternative to painkillers like oxycontin, which kills 16,000 people a year and is a common gateway drug to heroin.

"Tell me one person you know who died from a marijuana overdose," he said.

Morgan said the pharmaceutical industry is well aware of the benefits of marijuana, which is why the industry has tried to duplicate it in pill form. He denied the amendment is intended to produce a political result, particularly the election of his friend and employee, Charlie Crist, who is running for his old job as governor.

"I'm not going to spend almost $4 million of my own money to get Charlie Crist elected," he said.

He got in a few shots at his critics on the initiative, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, who filed suit to stop it. "I think Pam Bondi has hurt herself with this," he told reporters. "Pam's a longtime friend of mine, I've had a lot of fun with her. I used to party with her, and she dated a guy at my firm for 10 years, so I know her very well. I think she made a political mistake."

Contact Jodie Tillman at jtillman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374.

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