The Republican-dominated Legislature may be inadvertently goading Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, the moneybags behind a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, into finalizing a decision about whether to run for governor next year.
Lawmakers are left with a black eye after bombing out on a deal to implement Amendment 2, overwhelmingly approved by more than 71 percent of voters in November.
The stalemate prompted Senate President Joe Negron to issue a memo to his members Thursday, seeking their input on reaching a compromise with the House, amid growing demands for a special session on the issue.
The key point separating House and Senate was the number of retail locations — disparagingly referred to as “pot shops” by many Republican legislators — licensed marijuana operators — disparagingly referred to as a “cartel” — should be able to run.
The Senate wanted a cap of up to 15 dispensaries for the operators, while the House established a cap of 100, but would have agreed to a limit of 50.
The two approaches caused a very-public rift between Morgan and Ben Pollara, his onetime right-hand man who, as campaign manager for United for Care, was instrumental in racking up a win for the amendment last fall.
Pollara favored the Senate caps, while Morgan said the caps would limit patient access.
Gov. Rick Scott stayed on the sidelines during the legislative stand-off, adopting, in the words of one legislative leader, the role of “absentee landlord.”
On Thursday, Morgan — referring to himself in the third person — weighed in on how he would have handled the situation, if he were in the governor’s mansion.
“I believe John Morgan compromising with Joe Negron and Richard Corcoran would be more effective than any form of government we have going on right now,” Morgan told The News Service in a wide-ranging interview.
Morgan — who said he would be “better suited than anybody I can think of for that role” — stepped in at the 11th hour before the session ended Friday to try to broker a deal, but was unable to establish a rapprochement between the two sides.
“So yeah, in one sense it makes me think, if I had been Rick Scott, I would have come out of my tree house and walked across the street,” Morgan said. “I believe that a governor has to govern. And you cannot govern in an Eiffel tower…You have to go out and meet the people…and then negotiate and cajole and compromise.”
Republicans have had control of the governor’s office and both the House and Senate “since Crist was a baby,” Morgan, a devout Catholic, said.
“Maybe it’s time that we saw what would divided government look like in Florida,” he said.
On the possibility of a special session, Morgan — who considers Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican lawyer, a close friend — is urging lawmakers to return to the Capitol and finalize a deal on pot.
“I want them to come back. I believe it’s better to be regulated legislatively than to rely on bureaucrats,” he said.
If lawmakers don’t set out the framework for implementation of Amendment 2, the responsibility will rest with the Department of Health, which took a lot of heat for its roll-out of the state’s first medical marijuana laws in 2014.
“The reason American and Florida has disdain for bureaucrats…You know how inept they are,” Morgan said.
___ Posted by Dara Kam
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