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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The geniuses running the Republican campaign effort in Florida have now decided that stirring opposition to medical marijuana will help Governor Rick Scott win.

Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a huge donor to pro-Scott forces, recently gave $2.5 million to a new group aiming to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize cannabis use for patients with cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and six other serious diseases.

Recent polls show that between 66 percent and 70 percent of likely Florida voters favor the medical-marijuana amendment, and that the support cuts broadly across party lines. The measure, listed as Amendment 2 on the November ballot, requires 60-percent approval to become law.

The question is why the Republican brain trust thinks it’s a crackerjack idea to attack a popular social cause while Scott is fighting tooth and nail to save his job. The governor will be in deep trouble if thousands and thousands of marijuana advocates show up to vote in November. They’re not exactly his core constituency, so why get them riled?

Scott’s opposition to the medical-marijuana amendment is well known. He should low-key the issue, except to point out that he has promised to sign a law allowing a non-euphoric strain of the herb to be used for treating severe epilepsy in children and other patients.

That’s a humane decision, and it would win him votes.

But now comes Adelson’s seven-figure donation to the Drug Free Florida Committee, dedicated to defeating Amendment 2.

You might wonder why a rich Las Vegas casino owner is trying to prevent sick people 2,000 miles away from gaining legal access to pot. You think Adelson is genuinely worried that medicinal cannabis is a gateway to total legalization, and that it poses a dire threat to the people of Florida?

The man couldn’t care less. He’s all about getting Republicans elected.

According to The Washington Post, during the 2012 election cycle Adelson spent more than $92 million on political races, most of it on losing candidates. He wasted a ton of dough on Newt Gingrich’s flaccid presidential run, and then dumped more on Mitt Romney.

Now someone apparently has convinced him that Scott’s re-election depends on a large turnout of anti-pot voters. Thirty years ago this might have been a viable strategy, but public opinion has shifted drastically all over the country.

The GOP isn’t really scared of medicinal marijuana. They’re scared that it’s on the same ballot with Scott and their other candidates. They’re scared that more pro-cannabis voters will be Democrats than Republicans.

Feeding that fear is the fact that the biggest booster of Amendment 2 is John Morgan, a wealthy Orlando trial lawyer who’s a top supporter (and employer) of Charlie Crist, Scott’s presumed Democratic opponent in November.

A longtime proponent of legalizing medical marijuana, Morgan spent about $4 million on the statewide petition that put the issue on the ballot. Clearly he believes it won’t hurt Crist’s chances in the governor’s race.

So the Republicans now retaliate with the Drug Free Florida Committee, headed by GOP fundraiser Mel Sembler and his wife, who have close ties to the Bush family. The Semblers also bankrolled the fight against legalizing marijuana in Colorado.

Adelson’s $2.5 million check is by far the heftiest donation to the fledgling committee. When asked why the out-of-state gambling tycoon is pouring so much money into the battle against Amendment 2, Scott replied: “You’d have to ask Sheldon.”

As if Scott has no clue what his sugar daddy is up to. It’s an organized plan by Republican strategists that has nothing to do with the medical dispensation of marijuana, the statutory sturdiness of the amendment, or the ludicrous fantasy of a “drug-free” Florida.

It’s raw politics. The platform will be a 21st-century version of Reefer Madness propaganda, and the aim will be to scare people enough to make them go vote against Amendment 2. Those are folks who would also likely vote for Scott.

That’s the GOP theory, anyway.

A hyperbolic media campaign against medical marijuana could easily backfire, motivating pro-pot voters in even larger numbers. A high turnout, no pun intended, can only help Crist and hurt Scott.

If a smart person were making his campaign decisions, the governor would have told Adelson to stay out of Florida’s marijuana debate. Amendment 2 is almost certain to pass, so why run commercials that will only propel more of its supporters to the polls?

The result could extend Adelson’s losing streak, and send Scott’s re-election hopes up in smoke.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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  • voice_reason

    let’s not forget scott’s ties to the insurance industry, medical MJ does not fit their business

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      • Mark Forsyth

        The National Memo is not the place for your blather.Please go away.

        • DurdyDawg

          Girl gotta make money some how.. Off the backs of others seems to be the conservative way.

    • Annemb

      Let’s also not forget the M/Care fraud Scott was involved in.

      Great post!

      • Dominick Vila

        Unfortunately, his direct involvement in the Columbia HCA fraud case is never mentioned. Gov. Scott is cynically taking credit of things the Obama administration has done. Here is an example, a close relative of mine is planning to take advantage of the FLORIDA MORTGAGE REFINANCE law and credits to first time home buyers! The worst part is that when you tell the people who believe this nonsense that those laws were proposed and signed by President Obama, you either get a blank stare or a retort claiming they are the result of the Honorable Gov. Scott decisions. Gov. Scott’s candidacy is popular largely because of the failure of the Democratic party to fight back effectively, and a Democratic candidate that many Dems don’t support.

        • Annemb

          A very well articulated post!

          I have said the same thing about the Democratic party — they don’t fight back! I have telephoned and emailed the DNC who, I understand does not support every Democratic candidate, that I refuse to donate one penny to the DNC until I hear them and Dems speak out. I don’t know what the heck is wrong with them … they have the truth and need not worry about being badgered or maligned. They’re supposed to represent the people …

          Have a good evening…and thanks.

    • FireBaron

      If they could find a way to bill for it, they would be strongly in favor of it.

  • gmccpa

    I really hope this article’s take is spot on. We all know that FL has a large medicare aged population. What many of us don’t know (at least I didn’t until I moved here)… that many of them do like their weed. Cant tell you how many sixty somethings I’ve seen sitting in their cars taking a few pre round hits….before heading over to the first tee.

  • doninsd

    It appears that the GOPers are seriously bereft of common sense at all levels. As an old friend of mine would say: “Those guys could tear up an iron ball with a rubber hammer.”

  • Helen Stark

    What the heck are you even talking about? I’m totally anti-Rick Scott and plan to vote against him, but did you just not notice that Rick Scott already signed Charlotte’s Web LEGALIZING MEDICAL MARIJUANA on Weds already? (this is from the writer’s own Miami Herald, but story is carried on every single Florida paper).

    • Mikey7a

      TALLAHASSEE — As he promised, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill on Monday that legalizes the use of a non-euphoric strain of marijuana to treat conditions such as epilepsy, Lou Gehrig’s disease and cancer.

      Helen, here’s the hypocritical part of what Scott thinks Scott said that he personally opposes legalizing medical marijuana and the ballot initiative.

      “I’ve watched drug use. ve watched alcoholism,” he said during a campaign stop Monday. “I’ve seen how it affects families. I can’t support that.”

      Oh really now? OK then Mr. Scott. Get to writing anti-alcohol Legislation, and see how fast you’re run straight over the Fla/Ga line my friend!

      I’m 58, haven’t used Marijuana in 18 years, but did from around 18, until 40. I’ve never seen a guy get “stoned”, then fly into a rage and beat his wife, or kids. Never seen same said guy, turn into some sort of slobbering, slurring, miserable monster, cursing all who love him.

      Drunks kill more people driving, than die in ANY other traffic fatality. The very day he makes Booze illegal, I’ll support the idiotic Pot Laws, until then, Scott can please just go away, and take Addelsen with him!

      • Mikey7a

        Oh, and another thing while I’m up here on my Soap Box. I have lived with Chronic back pain for over 20 years. To be treated here in good ole Floridy, I cannot have Cannabis in my system. So, to get the steroid injections(which never actually leave your body), and the useless Lortab pills, that are killing my liver with Acetaminophen, I had to sign a contract, and urinate in a cup, like a criminal, every month! YES, I hate Gov. Scott, and the whole Republican run, Florida Legislature!

      • Helen Stark

        You are preaching to the choir here. I hate Rick Scott too. My point wasn’t to stick up for him, but to point out that National Memo articles should be more factual in content. If within 3 secs of reading an article here, opening any Florida paper yields an article that implies the opposite of an article here, it damages National Memo’s credibility. This matters.

        • Mikey7a

          OK Helen, sorry. Although this article does mention Scott’s intentions.

          “Scott’s opposition to the medical-marijuana amendment is well known. He should low-key the issue, except to point out that he has promised to sign a law allowing a non-euphoric strain of the herb to be used for treating severe epilepsy in children and other patients.”

        • dpaano

          Helen: I believe the article DID mention that…maybe you need to read it again. I believe it’s in the 5th paragraph.

  • Al Bumen

    People are likely to remain unsatisfied with a vast civilization that neither satisfies our instincts nor appears to have predictable order.

  • dpaano

    Wow, we can ONLY HOPE!!! What a stupid thing to do and a large waste of an idiot’s money…..oh well, idiots and their money are often parted!!!

  • rustacus21

    Right now, I just finished reading another story (“FL Taxpayers About To Be Railroaded” on Nat’l Memo) on FL & it appears to me that there’s something wrong there, if they can’t figure out that for years they’ve been voting wrong on a great many issues – as in the entire electorate not voting at all! Which is how U get the Rick Scotts, the RR lines that are essentially pay-outs & pay offs & political (bribes) favors, but most crucial, the stand U’r ground & privatized ‘Public Education’ policies that create the foundation for the permanent underclass that can’t make heads nor tales of the Civic Cultural tailspin the state (among too damn many across America NOW) is in & consequently, doesn’t feel any urgency to vote. Does it matter that conservatives cheat & game the vote? Hell YES – so does that mean U don’t vote? HELL NO!!! It’s all the MORE reason FL, CO, TX, GA, MI, NM & other states where conservatives now hold sway, but have their backs to the wall & think the big money will rescue them again this year, that GETTING everyone to the polls is essential. PROVE them WRONG by bringing the BIG VOTES to the polls this fall & every year from now on, no matter the sacrifice, b/c if OUR Democracy falls completely under their control, Mexico, Mogadeshu, Mosul, Chicago, those – combined – will ALL be coming to a community NEAR U!!! If not U’r own…