Gil Smart: Who opposes marijuana legalization, and why?
It could be because Adelson’s wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, is an addiction specialist who reportedly believes marijuana to be a “gateway” drug. Maybe it’s because he’s reportedly close to Mel Sembler, the founder of Drug-Free Florida, and wanted to do him a solid.
Or maybe there are other reasons.
Adelson helped finance opposition to a previous, 2014 attempt to legalize medical pot in Florida. Then again, in Israel, at the eponymous Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases at Tel Aviv University, researchers “have reportedly made advances in studying how marijuana and its associated chemicals can potentially mitigate brain injuries or reduce the symptoms of degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.
So Adelson is funding research into the possibilities of medical pot — even as he works to keep it illegal in Florida. It makes no sense. Unless it all boils down to a business decision.
Adelson is in the business of selling sin, if you want to look at it that way. Perhaps he just wants to limit the competition. As Jacob Sullum wrote in Forbes earlier this year, “Even though he made a fortune by tempting people into making losing bets, Adelson has tried to mount a moral case against online gambling. … That hypocrisy is mirrored by his stance on drugs: He insists that the government punish marijuana suppliers and consumers while he sells people alcohol, a competing intoxicant that is substantially more dangerous.
“These inconsistencies make Adelson’s moral crusades look more like protectionism than puritanism,” Sullum noted.
So who knows. But the reality is, many of the opponents of medical marijuana have a lot to gain by keeping it illegal.
In 2014, the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org noted that “Money, not morals, drives the marijuana prohibition movement.” Typical opponents of legalization include the alcoholic beverage industry, which worries that legal pot could cut into its bottom line; police unions, as law enforcement has become heavily dependent upon funds generated via the war on drugs and benefits by continuing that war on all fronts; private prison corporations and prison guard unions, which make more money the more people we lock up for drug crimes; and pharmaceutical companies, because medical pot could ultimately replace pricey medications.
Sembler’s Drug-Free Florida Committee has taken in $9.2 million since it was founded in 2014. Adelson provided two-thirds of that funding. After beating back the 2014 pro-pot amendment, the committee sat fallow for all of 2015, before kick-starting earlier this year to fight the new Amendment 2.
Since March, the committee’s raised just under $2.9 million, with Adelson contributing $1 million. Sembler, himself a billionaire, has put in another $1 million. The Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust donated $800,000. Carol Jenkins Barnett is the daughter of George Jenkins, founder of Publix Super Markets, and a long-time supporter of programs that benefit children.
There have been a grand total of 16 other donors this year.
So the big checks aside, this doesn’t exactly constitute a groundswell of support/opposition to Amendment 2, though of course the money is being employed to try and create that groundswell. And it won’t take much.
For while recent polling is showing up to 70 percent of Floridians back medical marijuana, Amendment 2 needs to get 60 percent of the vote in November to pass. All the prohibitionists have to do between now and voting day is invoke those crooked doctors and sketchy bohemians, chip away a little here and there, and the whole thing goes up in smoke.