Let me just start by saying the comments of people leaving the Michael’s on East dining room in Sarasota, Florida pretty much summed up Wednesday’s Tiger Bay luncheon. “That was the best Tiger Bay I’ve ever been to.” “I was not looking forward to covering this event (said a reporter), but wow- that was great!” “I have never laughed so much or so hard at a Tiger Bay Luncheon.” “I didn’t learn much, but that sure was entertaining!”
The topic: Legalized Medical Marijuana in Florida.
The guests: Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight and attorney John Morgan.
A targeted and high dollar campaign earned this topic a spot on the Florida statewide ballot this year. With enough signatures by petition, the amendment to legalize medical marijuana will be on the ballot along with the Governor’s race this November- paid for in large part by a $4 million campaign contribution from attorney John Morgan.
Tiger Bay board member Susan Nilon welcomed the crowd of more than 400 and started the lively luncheon off by encouraging guests to “enjoy the brownies” conspicuously already placed in the center of every table.That pretty much set the tone for the event, highlighted even more by the firecracker moderating of Sarasota Judge Nancy Donnellan, who kept comments short and ran a tight ship- at times getting audience laughs herself.
Enjoy some of the best quotes from the event below:
“Thank you for having me here. Being in front of 400 people and being new to the area I just feel the need to first start by saying ‘if you’ve been injured in an auto accident, call Morgan and Morgan.”
“Thanks for coming to Sarasota, John. You may not remember, but you actually sent me a letter a few years ago. It was right after my daughter totalled my pick up truck.”
Then, it got more serious…
“One in six teenagers who try marijuana become addicted.”
“John, are you willing to guarantee me that if this passes, Columbian drug cartels won’t come to Sarasota?”
“Sheriff, they are already here.”
“Marijuana is the lesser of two evils when it comes to alcohol.”
“I am scared that this is going to increase crime in Sarasota and affect our quality of life. We have seen a decrease in crime over the past five years by 38%. I am not ready to jeopardize that.”
“In Denver, there is a 50% robbery and burglary rate around marijuana dispensaries. That means one out of every two are robbed. In Sarasota our total robbery and burglary rate is 16%. That would be a 300% increase for us.”
“As your Sheriff, I urge you to please do your research. Go to weedmaps.com and take a look at how many marijuana dispensaries have popped up in Anaheim, California, which has a similar population to ours. These dispensaries are cash businesses. Cash businesses are a magnet for crime, and your local law enforcement would have no jurisdiction because it would be legal in the state.”
John Morgan walked right into it when he said:
“The only two people I trust are doctors and cops.”
“Trust me, John, this amendment will increase crime.”
When asked if he thought marijuana was addictive, he said, “Yes, it is.”
Talking about a relative who was so sick that he couldn’t talk or eat, who used marijuana for his debilitating symptoms, “he told me while eating a pot roast at dinner that ‘this shit works.”
Moderator Judge Donnellan:
“Funny that he was eating a ‘pot’ roast.”
“Marijuana is a plant that God put on this planet for us to use. I don’t know why he did but he did. Just like the aloe plant.”
“God also put the cocoa leaf on this planet which is used to make crack, opiates which are used for heroin, and criminals. I don’t know why he did that either, but that argument doesn’t hold water with me.”
Lee Ann Chung (Tiger Bay member) asked: “Excuse the snarky question Mr. Morgan, but I noticed that you have purchased property on US 41 in Sarasota. If this amendment passes, will you be placing a pot drive thru on 41 and a campaign office for your employee Charlie Crist?”
Chung was referencing the political undertone of this entire debate. No matter what side you are on, we hope voters see through the fog here and understand that this is about politics. Many people say this entire amendment is about getting people to the polls to vote for Charlie Crist in November. We couldn’t agree more though with Sheriff Knight when he encourage people to educate themselves fully about this amendment and what it will mean for the people of Sarasota County and the state of Florida. The language of the amendment is extremely vague.
Former Senator Mike Bennett encouraged the Sheriff to work with legislators on how to frame the law if it does pass, to protect our quality of life here in Sarasota. And so that pot shops like one pictured on a poster Knight brought to the event, don’t start popping up everywhere.
In Colorado, where marijuana was recently legalized, crime has increased and marketing signs have surfaced all over the state, like at a bakery at the Denver Airport seen here, mocking the new laws with slogans like “Get Sconed”.
Spirit airlines even centered a whole campaign on it. I’m not so sure I want Florida to be known more for marijuana than Mickey Mouse ears and beautiful beaches.
Judge Donnellan asked before the discussion began how many people had already made up their minds about the issue. Pretty much the entire room raised their hand. Afterward she asked if anyone had changed his or her mind from the discussion. One hand went up. We hope that even if your mind is made up, you will educate yourself completely between now and November.