A look at medical marijuana's political influence in Florida

by: Jamie Smith Updated:

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —

Within weeks of United For Care's victory in getting medical marijuana put on the November ballot, the Florida Sheriff's Association came out against the measure. 

Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford and the nonpartisan Florida Sheriff's Association for months had been the main opposition to those backing medical marijuana. But not anymore. 

Drug Free Florida has raised $2.7 million, with $100,000 from Republican donor Mel Sembler. Another $100,000 came from the Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust, the family that owns Publix. And $2.5 million came from Sheldon Adleson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire. 

"It is now starting to receive a lot of political attention," said Tim Morgan of United For Care. "Totally shocked me, this whole thing has shocked me."  

Morgan is the brother of attorney John Morgan, the man credited with sparking this issue in Florida. People United for Medical Marijuana has collected $5.2 million, most of it from John Morgan himself. 

"This infusion of cash on the other side has the potential to make this a more interesting race," said political analyst Rick Foglesong. 

Foglesong said Republicans and Democrats both see this as a way to drive voters to the polls. It's a wedge issue that could potentially sway the governor's race, as other hot button amendments have done in the past. 

"Medical marijuana, so-called, is the Democrat equivalent of anti-gay marriage referendums that Republicans used in other states, including Florida," Foglesong said.