Florida’s ‘PotDaddy’ handicaps recreational marijuana ballot proposals

By: - August 28, 2019 5:49 pm

John Morgan, on the right, at the Capital Tiger Bay Club.

PotDaddy says Florida voters may get to decide next year on whether to allow recreational marijuana in the state, but it will be a difficult task.

“I think it has a better chance than not, but I think it is razor thin,” said John Morgan, the flamboyant trial lawyer who financed and promoted a successful medical marijuana ballot initiative in 2016. He doesn’t plan to be a major financial backer for the newest marijuana campaigns.

Morgan, who sometimes uses the Twitter hashtag #PotDaddy, notes his expertise comes from his direct involvement in two medical marijuana constitutional amendments in Florida. The first failed in 2014. The second passed in 2016 with more than 71 percent of voter support.

“When I did marijuana the second time and I knew what I was doing, I barely made it,” Morgan told reporters on Wednesday, after giving a colorful speech peppered with religious references and profanity at the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee.

Morgan says he believes a new recreational marijuana initiative, which has the backing of the marijuana industry, has the best chance to make the 2020 general election ballot.

He says companies like cannabis retailer MedMen, which support the “Make It Legal Florida” initiative, have the financial resources and expertise to collect at least 766,200 voter signatures by the Feb. 1 deadline to qualify the issue for the ballot.

But Morgan says he supports both the Make It Legal effort as well as a prior initiative, known as “Regulate Florida,” which seeks to legalize recreational marijuana and regulate it like alcohol sales. The key difference between the initiatives is that Regulate Florida would let Floridians grow their own plants, while Make It Legal would only allow retail sales of cannabis.

He says if recreational marijuana becomes legal in Florida, the issue of “homegrown” plants will be moot.

“I believe if recreational marijuana passes, I don’t believe the cops are going to be in your backyard digging up three pots of marijuana,” Morgan said.

Morgan also says he sees legalization of marijuana as a civil justice issue.

“I believe now is the time for recreational marijuana because people have been put in jail for no good reason, the people of color, the poor people, that’s who has really suffered,” he said.

Morgan says the passage of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment in 2016 is “one of the things I’m most proud about in my life…. Everywhere I go people thank me for medical marijuana.”

Morgan says he has applied for his own medical marijuana card, citing “post traumatic stress disorder” as his qualifying condition.

He says the doctor asked him how he got the condition. “I go, f****** Donald Trump is the president of the United States of America. How the hell do you think I got PTSD?” Morgan said. The doctor approved his application.

Morgan says he will not be a major financial backer for the latest marijuana ballot initiatives, but is focusing on what he calls the “last crusade” of his political career: raising Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Morgan has spent more than $4 million on the “Florida for a Fair Wage” ballot initiative. And the campaign has collected nearly 613,000 of the 766,200 voter signatures required to place the initiative on the 2020 ballot, according to the state Division of Elections.

Morgan says raising the minimum wage will help ordinary Floridians who are struggling financially.

“It’s these men and women who live these lives of quiet desperation. They live in quicksand. No matter how far they swim, they finally get out and then they slide back in. The transmission goes out. The radiator goes out. The air conditioner goes out,” he said.

Morgan says his minimum-wage initiative is getting “a lot of pushback” from groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which argues raising the minimum wage could hurt the economy.

But he says he has firsthand experience with the issue, after raising the minimum wage at his law firm, Morgan & Morgan, to $15 an hour.

“It was palpable. People were sobbing. People were crying. It is life changing,” Morgan said. “This is not a political issue. This is an issue of morals and ethics and religion.”

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Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger

Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.