.The Richest One Percent Moves to Kill Medical Marijuana in Florida — Again

We recently wrote about how U.S. medical and recreational legalization efforts this election cycle are “dangerously overextended.” Many campaigns have very little cash and will fail if opposition donors mount a serious effort.

That appears to be happening in Florida, where activists at United For Care are working to pass a medical-marijuana initiative, after failing to gather a 60 percent majority vote in 2014.

On Friday, billionaire drug war profiteer Mel Sembler vowed to raise $10 million to defeat Measure 2.

Sembler told a Florida reporter that: “We’re trying to save lives and people’s brains,” the Drug Free America founder said. “It’s not a medicine.”

Sembler’s criteria for opposing medical marijuana appear to lack any rational basis beyond the profit motive. 

States with medical cannabis laws have 25 percent less opioid overdoses than those without, and Florida is in the grips of a raging prescription pill overdose epidemic. Medical-cannabis legalization is also associated with reductions in road fatalities, and does not increase teen use, research shows.

Cannabis’ medical use is supported by a majority of U.S. doctors; 56 percent support full legalization. Twenty-four states now have medical-cannabis laws, covering hundreds of millions of people.

Sembler did not respond to requests for comment.

United for Care did not respond to questions about its viability as of press time this morning. United for Care’s John Morgan wrote in a fundraising email to followers:

“I’ve got a message for Mel Sembler: BRING. IT. ON. No amount of money and lies are going to stop us from winning this time. We will pass Amendment 2 in November. We will bring compassion to Florida. We will match their lies with the truth about medical marijuana.”

Approximately 65-68 percent of Floridians support medical cannabis, two polls show.

But experts say attack ads will peel away supporters, and getting them back can take four times as much money to counter negative ad spending. Opposition ads promise to be apocalyptic in the opioid-epidemic-ridden Southern state.  Opponents of medical-cannabis legalization in 2014 told voters that edibles would be the new teen date-rape drug if Florida legalized medical cannabis.

If Sembler succeeds, it will add fuel the populist streak in American culture — where just one member of the richest one percent can defeat the majority will of 20 million people.

In 2014, a 58 percent majority of Floridians supported medical-cannabis legalization, but Sembler’s spending prevented activists from obtaining the super-majority 60 percent needed to pass the initiative.

The governors in Arizona and Massachusetts have also asked Sembler for money, reports state.

In 2012, The Nation magazine called the strip mall developer Sembler the GOP Mogul behind drug treatment “torture” centers shut down for child abuse allegations. Sembler has taken hundreds of thousands of federal tax dollars to push workplace drug testing. And Sembler’s government-enabled chain of mandatory pot rehab clinics was forced to close after investigations and lawsuits began to mount in several states.

“The Semblers have been waging a war on marijuana for decades.

Before they led Save Our Society from Drugs, and its sister nonprofit, the Drug Free America Foundation, the Semblers were at the helm of STRAIGHT, Inc., which operated drug abuse treatment centers, mostly for teenagers, from 1976 through 1993. 

Former clients of the rehab center recount episodes of brutal beatings, rape and systematic psychological abuse.”

“Though the STRAIGHT drug rehab clinic no longer exist, the Sembler network of anti-drug nonprofits have proliferated, in part because of the family’s extensive political connections. Mel, who served as a major fundraiser for George H.W., Jeb and George W. Bush, was appointed as the Ambassador to Italy in 2001. Betty Sembler, awarded “honorary agent status by the DEA,” has led various anti-drug commissions and task forces on the state and federal level.”


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