TAMPA (FOX 13) –
When Florida voters go to the polls in November, one issue could overshadow every race from governor to school board: Constitutional Amendment 2.
That’s the one titled “use of marijuana for certain medical conditions.”
I sat down with two people who are most attached to this issue — a millionaire personal injury attorney and a no-nonsense county sheriff: John Morgan and Grady Judd.
The most recent Quinnipiac University poll numbers show 84 percent support for legalizing medical marijuana in Florida.
“I think people know that that it works, number one,” Morgan said. “I think, number two, most people are very compassionate. And what we are talking about at the end of the day is an alternative to some very poisonous narcotics that kill people and hook people. To help people at the end of their life or at a time of a time of a really debilitating injury or illness.”
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd points out that the Quinnipiac poll doesn’t ask about the ballot measure, but about medical marijuana — two different things.
“Ask them if they are for Amendment 2, with the loopholes that give access to marijuana to children, where caregivers can be felons, where doctors and the growers of marijuana can’t be held civilly liable if they poison you,” he said. “You will get a different result.”
Sheriff Judd, in almost every answer to our questions, pointed to what he called those “loopholes” in Amendment 2: that lack of liability, the defined conditions for use of medical marijuana, who a caregiver can be.
“It’s the big scam of 2014,” he continued. “To get the compassionate people of Florida, which we all are, to vote and legalize marijuana. It’s about money, it’s about greed. It’s not really about the very sick.”
Grady Judd and John Morgan both admit they respect and like the other. But they have different takes on the Florida medical marijuana debate.
“Go to any medicine cabinet in Polk County,” Morgan said. “There you will find Xanax, Percocet, Darvocet and OxyContin. Those are much more dangerous drugs than marijuana. Those drugs kill and hook and destroy hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of family members. I would say to him, we’re too smart for scare tactics. This is not a gateway drug. If it is, the next is morphine at the hospice center.”
“John knows it’s a gateway drug,” Judd countered. “There is mountains of research that shows marijuana is a gateway drug. That’s not what we are arguing here. I am not arguing that people who are not severely sick and no traditional medicine works shouldn’t have a pill that has the cannabinoids of marijuana in that. I support that. That’s not what we are dealing today. We are debating an intoxicant that’s going to be abused because there have been intentional loopholes written into the law.”
Another concern for Sheriff Judd: kids having easier access to marijuana products.
“Kids will get their hands on it, absolutely,” he insisted. “Parents, other people, are going to leave candy around the house. And cookies around the house.”
John Morgan worries about it too. He says how the law is enacted will be as important as getting it passed.
“The very argument that these sheriffs are using that they are worried about the kids getting their hands on the medical marijuana is the exact same argument the people who want gun control use,” Morgan offered. “We don’t want our children to get their hands on guns. So, what I would tell Grady Judd is this: Lock up your medical marijuana in your gun rack and you can kill two birds with one stone. The kids won’t get to the guns and the kids won’t get to the medical marijuana.”
So why are they in this fight?
“I look around and I say, ‘Where is everybody else that the public trusts to educate them, to communicate with them, to represent them? Providing their perspective on Amendment 2? Where are they?'” Judd said. “I’m doing this because I swore an oath to protect and serve the people of Polk County. I’m providing education. They’re my bosses; however they vote, I’m going to respect it. I’m gonna salute. I’m gonna march. I’m a good soldier. But I’m not going to sit here and let this become a train wreck and two years later, people look at me and say, ‘Sheriff, you knew this was gonna be a train wreck, and you didn’t warn us?'”
For Morgan, this issue is personal. He saw how his father benefited from medical marijuana when he was dying. He sees everyday how his quadriplegic brother benefits.
“If he took the drugs that they wanted him to take, like seven Xanax a day, he would be a zombie. For the pain and the spasms, marijuana eliminates the spasms immediately and kills the pain instantaneously. So, I’ve seen it work.”
John Morgan admits he has $4-million of his own money in this. More than intended, but he’s too far in it now. So what’s in it for him?
“I have heard that I’m buying up land in north Florida. I’ve heard that I’m buying up land in south Florida. I don’t know how I would profit,” he said.
How about the John Morgan “For the People” dispensary?
“I wouldn’t buy any plant that I grew because I will kill anything I’m in charge of growing. You do not want me growing anything,” he laughed, then got serious. “The simple fact is it’s not true.”
As for Sheriff Judd, he says no, he’s not using this issue to run for another office.
“All I want to be is the sheriff of Polk County,” he stated. “I love being sheriff of Polk County. The people of Polk County elected me to educate them. To be their sheriff. My personal opinion is that I’m against it. But as I go out and talk to the people in the community, I tell them up front, ‘Look, I’m not going to suggest how you vote. That’s a personal choice. And I’m going to support you.'”
For John Morgan, he’s not sorry he’s in this. It is about what he calls his legacy.
“When this is all done, if this is part of the good side of my legacy, then money well spent.”
This debate is not done. Expect to hear more from both sides all the way to Election Day.
You can even hear John Morgan and Sheriff Judd debate in person on August 28 at Lakeland High School.
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