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Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014
Politics

Medical pot group stays above fray


Published:

— Florida for Care, a group casting itself as above the politics of pot, will begin work this summer crafting a set of policy recommendations that lawmakers could put in place if voters approve a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

The group is applying with the IRS for a specific type of nonprofit status that, if approved, would allow Florida for Care to avoid disclosing the donors fueling those policy discussions or future lobbying efforts.

Its policy arm is a “blue ribbon commission” that will hold a series of five meetings to develop recommendations on how the medical marijuana law could be rolled out if it gets voter approval in November.

It is composed of both supporters and opponents of the proposal, which will appear as Amendment 2 on November’s ballot.

“Florida for Care’s Blue Ribbon Commission will provide research, expert opinions, and feedback on a wide range of medical marijuana issues,” wrote Jon Mills, chairman of the commission, in a welcome letter to commission members.

He is an attorney and former Democratic speaker of the Florida House who supports Amendment 2. The commission’s co-chairman is former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who says he will vote against the amendment.

“I don’t support the amendment, but if it’s a ‘yes’ vote, I want to make sure it’s implemented in the best way possible,” the Miami Republican said.

Florida for Care’s executive director is Dan Rogers, a former aide to state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, an Orlando Democrat. The group emerges as the political fight over the amendment heats up. Both sides have large partisan donors.

Drug Free Florida, a group opposing the amendment, recently started its push after months of quiet opposition. It has raised $2.7 million, of which $2.5 million has come from Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire Las Vegas casino magnate.

People United for Medical Marijuana, a committee supporting Amendment 2, has raised $5.5 million, including $2 million from trial attorney John Morgan, a Democrat and the group’s chairman. The group has spent $5.1 million, much of which went to collect more than 700,000 signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot.

Those political committees must disclose their donors under state law, but Florida for Care may not have to.

It has applied to the IRS for status as a 501(c)(4), a so-called “social welfare” group that isn’t required to disclose its donors. A social welfare group can maintain its status as long as less than 50 percent of its spending is for political activities.

The prevalence of these organizations spiked in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that said companies and unions can raise unlimited amounts of money and register for nonprofit status.

Matt.Dixon@naplesnews.com

(352) 233-0777

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