CAMPAIGN 2014

Jeb Bush: ‘I strongly urge’ Floridians to vote against medical marijuana

 
 
Workers at Alpha Foliage in Homestead trim palms as they move by on a conveyor belt. The family business, owned by Chuck Buster, is one of dozens in Florida eligible to apply for a license to grow medical marijuana.
Workers at Alpha Foliage in Homestead trim palms as they move by on a conveyor belt. The family business, owned by Chuck Buster, is one of dozens in Florida eligible to apply for a license to grow medical marijuana.
Emily Michot / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Tampa Bay Times

Jeb Bush is adding his influential voice to the medical marijuana debate in Florida, saying the ballot initiative could harm Florida’s reputation.

“Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire,” Bush said in a statement. “Allowing large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts. I believe it is the right of states to decide this issue, and I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November.”

Bush’s strong words come as other politicians have been reluctant to take a hard line on an issue with broad public backing.

The former Florida governor, a Republican who is considering a run for president in 2016, joined the Florida Chamber, Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida and the Florida Trucking Association in the coalition fighting the initiative.

“Normally we focus on creating jobs, improving education and making Florida more competitive, but this is the type of business Florida can do without,” said Mark Wilson, the Chamber’s president. “I find it curious that the largest funder of this push to legalize pot is a personal injury trial lawyer firm, yet such measures are overwhelmingly opposed by Florida’s medical and law enforcement community. Florida voters are smart and when the facts are on the table, I believe they will say no to drugs in Florida.”

Orlando lawyer John Morgan financed the petition campaign to get Amendment 2 on the ballot through United for Care, his pro-medical marijuana group.

United for Care said Thursday that it was not surprising Bush weighed in. “What is surprising is that he would choose to take a position so out of step with the voters who twice elected him to the highest office in the state,” said Ben Pollara, the group’s campaign manager.

“Former Gov. Bush has always been an independent voice in the Republican Party, which may be why he’s chosen to take a position on compassionate medical marijuana policy that is at odds with Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Chris Christie and his other potential opponents for the 2016 presidential nomination — including the more nuanced position taken by his protégé and possible primary opponent Sen. Marco Rubio, who at least supports the narrow medical marijuana law passed (nearly unanimously) by the Republican-led state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.”

Wilson raised concerns that growers, transporters, sellers, doctors, patients and caregivers involved in the transfer and administration of potent marijuana products will be given complete civil and criminal immunity under the amendment. “That,” he said, “is a huge red flag for Amendment 2.”

Rubio also opposes the medical marijuana ballot measure that voters will decide in November. But Rubio said he supports the use of noneuphoric strains. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson supports the ballot measure.

Polls show an overwhelming majority of Florida voters support the ballot initiative, which would allow people with debilitating conditions to get a medical marijuana card. A doctor would have to conduct an examination, take the patient’s medical history and issue a recommendation to the state that pot would be beneficial.

Contact Tampa Bay Times Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary at aleary@tampabay.com. Follow @learyreports.

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