John Morgan works to pass a constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana in Florida - below is an interview with Morgan by our partners at the Ft. Myers News Press.
Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan is spearheading a move to pass a constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana in the state, putting millions of dollars of his own money and his considerable public-speaking skills behind it. He's also backing an employee of his law firm — former Gov. Charlie Crist — in a bid to unseat Gov. Rick Scott in November.
Meanwhile, Morgan continues to expand the law firm he founded in 1988, taking the slogan "For the People" and vowing never to take a case representing an insurance carrier or a large company. Morgan and Morgan has 26 offices and 260 lawyers; its founder has made a fortune in personal-injury litigation and written a book on how he did it.
Morgan graduated from the University of Florida, where he was president of the leadership fraternity Blue Key. He graduated from UF's Levin College of Law in 1982. He and his wife, Ultima, have four grown children.
Q: How do you like your bet on Charlie Crist now, with so many people saying they're turned off by the negative tone of the governor's race?
JOHN MORGAN: Well, I think what Charlie will do is — you know, Charlie is one of the most straightforward and, in my mind, courageous politicians in Florida. And I'll tell you why. When he was the governor of Florida, he had a climate-change summit, he extended voting hours and voting days, he restored felons' rights, he stood up to insurance companies and he took the stimulus money when the country was falling off the cliff. And that was not what was in the Republican playbook. And I think if Charlie just tells his story about being an independent, middle-of-the-road person who puts people ahead of politics, he'll be fine. So I think that's what he's got to do.
People say, "He left the party." … When one party becomes so extreme, that's when people start leaving. Jeb Bush said that Ronald Reagan couldn't win the Republican nomination today. It's just a different day. And at the end of the day, this election is going to come down to one simple question: Who do I trust most with my family's future, with the state's future? And I think Charlie will do well with that question.
(But Scott is spending millions to convince people not to trust Crist.) Well, I know. Rick has more money than Charlie will ever have. And Rick was willing to spend his money to be governor. But you know, Mitt Romney had a billion dollars and basically didn't move the needle. I think these people who spend all this money make a big mistake, because at the end of the day people are smart, they get it, they remember and they can't be fooled. And money never trumps trust. That's why I think Charlie will win.
Q: You've got heavy-duty opposition on Amendment 2 now, with Gov. Jeb Bush against it and Sheldon Adelson contributing $2.5 million to stop it. Are you getting worried?
MORGAN: No, I'm not worried at all.
You know, if Amendment 2 fails — it's not for me; it's for everybody. If it ever happened that I needed medical marijuana, I'd go to one of the 20 states (where it's legal) and get it. Some people can't. If it fails, it doesn't impact my life at all.
But I'm not worried because, again, I believe that the people of Florida are compassionate, I believe that they get it, they understand that this is not really a political issue — it's a medical issue.
Q: Already there's confusion over how the state will administer the "Charlotte's Web" noneuphoric medical marijuana law, which was approved by the Legislature this spring. How can Florida avoid being another Colorado or California, as your critics charge, with pot freely available?
MORGAN: What I say to those critics is: This has nothing to do with California or Colorado. In Colorado, marijuana is legal, period. California is the model for what not to do. What I would tell the critics is this: You never hear them talking about the 20 other states that have medical marijuana. I would tell them: Take a trip out to Arizona, which is a very conservative state, led by very conservative leaders. Look how it's working out there. ...
Take a look at Arizona, take a look at the other states and quit scaring people with a state like Colorado, where marijuana's legal. It's apples and oranges.
Q: What do you think of the way the Florida Department of Health is handling the development of a policy for Charlotte's Web?
MORGAN: I think it's bad. I think it shows that, you know, this was done — and I commend the Gaetz family. I commend (Rep.) Matt Gaetz for sponsoring it, and I commend (Senate President) Don Gaetz for confessing that years ago, when his best friend was dying, he went out and bought marijuana illegally because his friend was dying and needed relief. I think history is going to judge the Gaetz family very favorably.
But I would say that when you look at the way that Rick is enacting this law, there's too much cronyism. So you've got to have been a grower in the state of Florida for 30 years, even though you've never grown marijuana. They don't know anything about it. It's like telling somebody that's, you know, been a brick mason their whole life that you're going to be the person who's going to do the exterior painting.
Medical marijuana is much safer painkiller
There's two different specialties. It should be you bring in whoever is the most qualified to provide us with the best strains for these children with epilepsy, instead of trying to pay favors back to, basically, five growers. I mean, 30 years is a long time, and so to say that five growers are the only people who can grow it, to me, is kind of a snub at the free enterprise system.
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