Opponents call marijuana commission a shill group

in Uncategorized by

Amendment 2 opponents say plans by supporters to create a blue ribbon commission proves the opposition claim that the measure is riddled with loopholes and will increased marijuana use by minors.

On Friday, Vote No on 2 called the commission a “shill group.”

“They have taken this extraordinary step of forming a special interest group to masquerade as some kind of official commission that would allegedly fix Amendment 2’s flaws,” said Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for the Vote No on 2 campaign.

Florida for Care announced formation of the commission earlier this week.  Before the group went public, organizers said the commission would provide state regulators research, expert opinions and feedback on a range of issues if voters approve a medicinal marijuana initiative in November.   The commission is chaired by former Florida House Speaker Jon Mills and co-chaired by former Florida Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla.

“This commission will provide a detailed and careful plan to make medical marijuana available to Floridians in need,” said Mills.  “The citizens in over 20 states have this option for care. If the voters support this option, we want to provide a thorough analysis of the best policies to make compassionate care available to our families and fellow citizens.”

Vote No on 2 called it the “ultimate irony” that Mills, who wrote the amendment, will lead the commission.

“Constitutional experts continue to point out that if Amendment 2 is approved by voters and added to the Florida Constitution, citizens, politicians and, yes, even cleverly hatched special interest groups will be powerless to fix its many loopholes,” said Bascom. “Not even a sham commission created solely as a PR stunt can fill in these massive loopholes.”

In addition to Mills, a former dean of the University of Florida Levin College of Law, other commissioners include Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre, Jordan Wellington, a former policy analyst for the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, Dr. Clifford Selsky, who co-directed the Florida Hospital Medical Group’s Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood; Dr. Greg Gerdeman, assistant professor and researcher at Eckerd College and Karen Basha Egozi, CEO of Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.

The Florida for Care mission statement says its principal tents are safe, affordable patient access; a tightly controlled state regulatory structure; and a robust, free-market commercial enterprise.

Polls indicate support for Amendment 2 surpasses the 60-percent threshold needed for passage. It would legalize the cultivation, purchase, possession and use of marijuana to treat medical conditions when recommend by a licensed physician.

Debate over the proposal has sparked formation of interest groups arguing for and against.  The amendment made it to the ballot with more than a million petition signatures;  683,000 were needed. Supporters have raised more than $5.4 million and opponents have ­­­­­­­­­­­­$2.7 million on hand to wage their campaigns.

Florida attorney John Morgan has led the effort to legalize medicinal use of marijuana. More than 80 percent of the money donated to support the amendment can be traced to him.

In addition to Vote No on 2, a group called Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot, backed by the Florida Sheriffs Association and Drug Free America, is working to defeat the measure.

“According to the same lawyer who wrote the amendment and is now chairing the shill group, (Amendment 2) will allow people to get pot for throat pain, trouble sleeping and problems eating,” said Bascom.

Florida for Care executive director Dan Rogers said that while the group does not advocate for or against the passage of Amendment 2, it believes a strong regulatory system should be in place, if Amendment 2 is adopted.

Rogers said Florida for Care would consider any suggestions that Bascom may have in helping the commission in its work.

“We would welcome Sarah Bascom to submit a policy memorandum to the Commission and present it to them during one of their scheduled meetings. We look forward to Ms. Bascom bringing her extensive experience lobbying for the heavily regulated cigarette industry to the policy making conversation we are going to have this summer.”