John Morgan

What keeps John Morgan (who’s not Mother Theresa) up at night?

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It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan — who bankrolled the medical marijuana constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in November — admits he’s no saint.

“I am not Mother Theresa. I’m not Pope Francis. I’m John Morgan … I describe myself as a compassionate capitalist,” Morgan told reporters gathered outside the Leon County Courthouse Thursday morning.

Morgan’s confession came in response to a question about criticism that, since getting the marijuana initiative into the state constitution, he’s expressed interest in getting in on the state’s green rush.

Morgan — in the Capitol city Thursday to hold a press conference after filing a lawsuit challenging a new law that bans patients from smoking marijuana — has boatloads of business interests, including theme parks and hotels, throughout the country.

“I wake up every day, and my 100 percent effort is to make money, and lots of it. And I’m never going to apologize for it,” he said. “If people want to criticize me for making money, we’ll they’re going to able to criticize me until the day I die.”

While Morgan’s money-making tendencies are to be expected, what troubles the Orlando lawyer — whose visage is plastered all over buses and bill boards throughout Florida — might not be.

When asked about an effort by President Donald Trump’s administration to collect voter information data from states, Morgan — who is mulling a run for governor — seemed unaware of the issue.

“It’s a ping-pong ball for me with this administration. I spend most of my time worried about North Korea, to tell you the truth. What keeps me up at night is that crazy little dude in North Korea playing Russian roulette with us. I’m not that interested (in the voting issue),” Morgan said.

Morgan said he still hasn’t decided whether he’ll run for governor next year, but, as he has in the past, said he isn’t likely to show his cards for a while.

“Some days hot, some days cold,” he said, when asked where he stands on a gubernatorial run. “I’m going to think about it … Remember when you wanted to ask somebody out on a date? You kind of knew whether they were going to say yes or no before you asked them out. So, if I feel that way, maybe I will. I see no advantage to me announcing today, or anytime close to today. All of the people that have announced are doing things I would hate to be doing, having coffee klatsches and bullshitting people and telling everybody what they want to hear, no matter what their position is, in the klatsch, and raising money. I have an advantage, which I have name ID, for better or for worse … So I don’t have the need to do it.”

Morgan, a Democrat, likened his situation in what could be a crowded gubernatorial field to his position as a racehorse owner.

“I’m going to have the advantage of letting the race take off, come all the way around, and I don’t have to make a decision until the horses are all coming down the stretch. Wouldn’t you love to bet that way? You could make a lot of money. … So that’s how I’m looking at all of this,” he said.

Morgan also said he’s gearing up for a 2020 ballot initiative to raise Florida’s minimum wage, but he hasn’t settled yet on what the amount should be.

The proposal is now being drafted, Morgan said Thursday.

“The one thing that I know for a fact is, whether you’re a Bernie Sanders voter or a Donald Trump voter, what people were really mad about was that they get up every day, they do all the right things. They work their asses off. And when they come home, they’re worse off than when they left the door,” Morgan said.

“What’s going on in America, really, is we have slave labor — some people tell me, don’t use that word — in terms of undocumented workers. Thirteen to 14 million people are really living in slave labor. They are paid under the table. They have to buy food from the canteen. Sometimes they owe more to the agriculture people than they made all week. Then we come back to sub-slave labor, where people are working for $7 or $8 an hour, paying taxes, and there’s nothing left over. … So my response to this is rising tides lift all boats,” he said.

Morgan joked (we think) that he could use his chops getting the medical marijuana initiative passed to launch a cottage industry.

“I learned a lot of lessons in this process. I may spend the rest of my life doing ballot initiatives. Just, every two years, pick off somebody else’s problem,” he said.

Morgan ready to sue state over smokable pot

budOrlando trial lawyer John Morgan appears prepared to make good on threats to sue the state over implementation of the constitutional amendment, which he bankrolled, that legalized marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions.

“Great Scott!! I’ll be filing my lawsuit for smoke as soon as it goes into law. Independence Day 🇺🇸 #NoSmokeIsAJoke,” Morgan (@JohnMorganESQ) promised on Twitter today.

Morgan’s tweet references a quote from Gov. Rick Scott, who pledged to sign into law a measure (SB 8A), passed by lawmakers during the special session earlier this month, that lays out the framework for the constitutional amendment, approved by more than 71 percent of voters in November.

Morgan has vowed to sue over the issue of whether patients should be able to smoke the marijuana treatment.

Despite Morgan’s threats, the proposal now awaiting Scott’s signature bans smoking of marijuana, but it does allow patients to vape marijuana products.

In a recent interview, Morgan said that’s not good enough.

“(Smoking) clearly was called for in the amendment, and so what they’ve done for me is allowed me to step back up on my soapbox and go get what the people of Florida wanted when they passed this bill with 71 percent,” Morgan, who is mulling a bid for governor next year, told The News Service of Florida  after the Legislature signed off on the proposal on June 9.

John Morgan on weed, caps and “gross” politics

IMG_0610Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan weighed in on the medical marijuana measure approved by lawmakers Friday afternoon, pledging yet again to sue the state over the ban on smoking as a treatment option for patients.

The legislation also caps the number of dispensaries each marijuana operator can run at 25. Vendors can buy dispensary “slots” from each other, making it possible for them to exceed the caps.

Morgan, a major Democratic fundraiser who is mulling a bid for governor next year, shrugged off the caps.

“I don’t think any of the patients care about the caps. When you get right down to it, marijuana’s marijuana. They’re trying to make this like craft beer, with flavors like orange blossom and honey,” Morgan said.

Morgan — who’s eager to plunk some major greenbacks into the green rush — predicted that competition will resolve the cap issue.

“At the end of the day, the way things work in America is that the weak go away and the strong survive,” he said.

The focus on the caps “was all about money and profit and nothing about the patients,” Morgan said, adding that he isn’t concerned about the caps, which are scheduled to sunset in 2020.

While he may not care about caps, Morgan’s on fire about the ban on smoking. He pledged to make good on his threat to sue the state over the issue, saying that voters clearly expected to be able to smoke marijuana as a treatment when they overwhelmingly supported the measure in November.

Asked about a provision in the bill that forces health officials, when choosing new marijuana operators, to give special preference to applicants currently or previously involved in “the canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus fruit or citrus molasses,” Morgan called it “gross.”

“It’s just pay to play. It’s politics. It’s everybody crowding around the sugar cube trying to get some sugar. It’s kind of gross but then again politics is really gross. If you’re on the receiving end, you’re happy about it. If you’re on the losing end, you’re not,” he said.

Morgan plans to “invest heavily” in the industry he’s largely responsible for introducing to Florida.

“I believe that this is going to be a gigantic industry for a very good purpose and I like the idea now, after shilling it for all these years, I like the idea of being in it. And I’m a capitalist,” Morgan, whose portfolio includes law offices in a number of other states and theme parks.

Finally, Morgan said he’s content to stay on the sidelines while the 2018 governor’s race heats up.

“I believe I’m much better off watching the field run and expand,” he said. “I’m lucky that I don’t have to do what they have to do, which is go out and give speeches in the back room of Denny’s at 7 a.m. in the morning for $25 donations, and then spend that money for name recognition,” said Morgan, whose visage — and name — is featured on billboards and TV ads throughout the state. “I don’t have to do that. I have the luxury to wait until next spring if I want.”

Does pot stalemate give Morgan better reason to run?

IMG_0610The 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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