Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire Republican donor, is pouring millions of dollars into the fight against medical marijuana in Florida – even though research he funded shows weed is helpful in treating multiple sclerosis.
Adelson recently gave $2.5 million to a new group, founded by Florida Republican insiders, that opposes efforts to adopt medical pot, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Voters will decide in November whether to allow MMJ. A constitutional amendment on the ballot that has widespread support would allow doctors to recommend cannabis to treat debilitating medical conditions.
Study Shows Weed Can Treat MS
Adelson is fighting the amendment even though a study by his medical research group, the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation, showed that weed has medical benefits. The study, released late last year, demonstrated that medical marijuana is effective in treating multiple sclerosis.
Using funding from Adelson’s foundation, Israeli researchers found that two chemicals in marijuana, THC and CBD, helped prevent the inflammation of cells on the brains and spinal cords of mice with symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis. Scientists said the results could carry over to people with inflammatory conditions, including multiple sclerosis.
THC is the chemical in cannabis that gets users high, while CBD has been linked to numerous medical marijuana benefits.
“When used wisely, cannabis has huge potential,” Dr. Ewa Kozela, author of the study, said.
The push to adopt medical weed in Florida is led by Orlando personal injury lawyer John Morgan, who has spent $4 million pushing for MMJ. Morgan’s law firm employs Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor who is running to retake the office as a Republican.
Adelson is one of the chief financial opponents of medical pot. The group he funded, the newly formed Drug Free Florida Committee, was started by Republican Party insiders and has raised most of its money from Republicans.
At the same time, a group led by the Florida Sheriffs Association has launched a separate effort to defeat the amendment.
Despite Political Drama, Medical Pot Has Strong Backing
The fight over medical weed has taken on strong political overtones in Florida, with state Republican officials and party leaders, including Gov. Rick Scott, staunchly opposing the amendment and almost everyone else supporting it.
GOP leaders have accused Morgan of using the amendment as a lure to get voters to elect Crist. Morgan denies this, while supporters of the initiative say Republicans have done the same thing, using MMJ as a campaign tool to win votes for Scott.
Medical marijuana is hugely popular in Florida, and the amendment is expected to pass. It needs 60 percent of the vote to become law, but recent polls show support ranging from 70 percent to 90 percent. If those numbers are to be believed, Adelson’s millions may not get opponents of the measure very far.
But the money has already rankled MMJ advocates.
“If Sheldon Adelson knows that studies he is funding are saying marijuana may help treat my disease, how can he contribute millions of dollars to a group fighting every day to keep me from having access to it” asked June Cutright, a Florida patient with multiple sclerosis. “It’s absolutely unconscionable, and that’s putting it mildly.”