by Zach Harris
“If they write an obituary, they’re going to say, ‘That’s the guy that took millions of dollars out of his pocket and legalized medical marijuana in the state of Florida.’
The Man Who Brought Medical Marijuana to Florida Is Contemplating a Run for Governor John Morgan has hinted time and again that he’ll throw his hat in the gubernatorial race, and now he’s suggesting recreational cannabis legalization would be his principal platform. If there’s one man to thank for Florida’s new medical marijuana program, it’s John Morgan.
The longtime lawyer and subsequent political fundraiser authored the bill and spent nearly $9 million of his own money to push the MMJ legislation to a public vote where he succeeded wildly, with over 70% of the state agreeing to allow medical cannabis in the Sunshine State. Now, less than a year after voters sealed his biggest victory to date, it appears Morgan is setting his sights on a larger target, the Governor’s mansion.
According to the Palm Beach Post, if Morgan does make a run at Florida’s highest office, it will be under the banner of bringing recreational cannabis legalization to the Sunshine State. “If they write an obituary, they’re going to say, ‘That’s the guy that took millions of dollars out of his pocket and legalized medical marijuana in the state of Florida,’” Morgan told a room full of cannabis entrepreneurs this week.
“They’re going to say, maybe, ‘That’s the guy who ran for governor of the state of Florida, and one of his platforms was full legalization of marijuana.’” No Democratic nominee has woe the Florida gubernatorial race since 1994, and even with Morgan’s medical marijuana bill passing in a landslide, Floridians also used those exact same ballots to help Donald Trump easily collect the state’s electoral votes. And with next year’s gubernatorial race decided in a mid-term election, some political experts worry Florida’s traditionally older, Republican voters would rain on Morgan’s parade.
“The problem is the midterm election is dominated by older voters who are more conservative on drug issues,” Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida, told the Post. Others, though, see Morgan’s outspoken alliance with cannabis as a political tactic that could significantly shift Florida’s voter turnout demographics.
“What Morgan is trying to do is not to ride a wave of pro-pot sentiment,” Coker said. “What he’s trying to do is turn out younger voters, and that might be his mechanism.” Outside of the youth vote, Morgan has spoke about recreational cannabis legalization as a path towards job security, technological advancement and fiscal prosperity.
“What we worry about most in the 21st century is jobs, automation, robots. This is an industry that’s going to be a job creator.” Morgan said, offering up Colorado’s successful cannabis industry as an example of Florida’s future.
“Look at the real estate values, look at the real estate occupancy, look at the tax base, look at the jobs that are being created and will be created.”
No matter how much speculation is done in the meantime, the posturing will only have significance if Morgan actually declares his candidacy, a step he has not yet completed, despite his lofty speech to cannabis industry insiders earlier this week. So far, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King are the only registered Democratic gubernatorial candidates.