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Any Amendment 2 Medical Marijuana Do-Over Needs an AWOL John Morgan

November 10, 2014 - 6:00pm

John Morgan ranks as one of the biggest electoral losers in Florida after last weeks elections. Morgans old employee Charlie Crist lost against Rick Scott and Amendment 2 on medical marijuana, which the trial lawyer largely bankrolled, won the popular vote, but came up short.

Based on his comments after the election, Morgan isnt done with medical marijuana just yet. He vowed to bring back a constitutional amendment on medical marijuana in 2016, saying it has a better chance of passing in a presidential election year.

It's understandable that he would want another crack at it.

As Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, said in a Tuesday Context Florida oped, "Floridians want medical marijuana. While Amendment 2 fell short of the 60 percent required to pass an amendment, it received 3,364,026 votes, a half million more than Rick Scott. ... more votes than Pam Bondi, Jeff Atwater and Adam Putnam and a percentage larger than the last six governors elected in our state."

But Morgan seems determined to insinuate himself into another rematch with opposing forces. That is consummately unwise.

In his various post-election media events, Morgan has blamed seniors and attack ads for Amendment 2 going down. But he refuses to admit what a major role he himself played in its defeat. A Web video of Morgans profanity-laced speech at a rally in support of Amendment 2 went viral and hurt his cause. He became the face of Amendment 2 -- not suffering patients whose pain could be alleviated by medical marijuana.

Even at the end of the campaign, when the attack ads were being run across Florida, Morgan -- and not patients -- was the focus on a Today show story on Amendment 2.

Morgan might have his face plastered on billboards across Florida while his firms ads are constantly in rotation on the airwaves. Even some buses are covered with pictures of Morgan advertising his firm.But being well-known is not the same thing as being popular or admired. Morgans antics only hurt Amendment 2 and it appears he has not learned his lesson. Last week he took to Twitter to ask rapper Snoop Dogg to come down to Florida and join in the fight for medical marijuana in 2016.

Morgan clearly likes the spotlight. He stars in his own ads and prominently showed off his support for Amendment 2 in the recent election. But his political judgment is, at best, questionable. The video of Morgans rambling speech and sending trial balloons up for his son Matt to run for Florida attorney general shows bad political instincts.

Morgans antics may have ensured Amendment 2 fell just short of the 60 percent it needed to pass and his post-election comments -- that many of the seniors who voted against it will be dead come 2016 -- show he has no plans to tone down his style.

Claiming Amendment 2s ads didnt help the cause, Morgan said he will bring out better ones next time. But the problem with Amendment 2s ads wasn't the content; it was the lack of it. Opponents of Amendment 2 crowded Floridas airwaves with ads. Amendment 2s champions did little to counter them until it was too late.

Marijuana supporters like the Marijuana Majority questioned Amendment 2 backers tactics and pointed some of the blame at Morgan. Applauding Morgans intentions, they called for the trial lawyer to play a less prominent role in the future.

But Morgan seems incapable of doing that. Unfortunately for Amendment 2s supporters, Morgan became the story, not the Floridians whose sufferings would be lessened by medical marijuana. Even worse for those who want to expand medical marijuana in Florida, Morgan has apparently learned nothing from Amendment 2s defeat.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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