Drug Free Florida receives $800,000 to fight medical marijuana

Preparing to again try to defeat a medical-marijuana ballot initiative, the Drug Free Florida Committee received an $800,000 contribution this month from the Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust, a newly filed financial disclosure shows.

Carol Jenkins Barnett is the daughter of Publix Super Markets founder George Jenkins. Barnett, 59, stepped down from the Publix board of directors after she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers Disease, the Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this year.

The trust also contributed $540,000 in 2014 to the Drug Free Florida Committee, which led successful efforts that year to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would have broadly legalized medical marijuana.

The group United for Care, which also is known as People United for Medical Marijuana, backed the 2014 initiative and has placed a similar measure on the November 2016 ballot.

That group has been heavily funded by Orlando attorney John Morgan. The Drug Free Florida Committee had about $1.67 million in cash on hand as of July 15, the new finance report shows.

Medical marijuana could be available to a select group of Florida patients any day now.

An operation known as "Trulieve," is one of six dispensing organizations licensed by the state Department of Health to grow, process and distribute pot that purportedly does not get users high but is believed to alleviate life-threatening seizures.

The low-THC cannabis, first authorized in 2014, will be available to patients with chronic muscle spasms, cancer or severe forms of epilepsy.

Only 15 doctors have signed up to order the low-THC products, and no patients are yet registered on a statewide database of Floridians who are eligible for the treatment. Dispensaries can only sell the pot products to patients or their representatives who are registered on the database.

Doctors were supposed to be able to begin ordering the non-euphoric products more than a year ago, but the process has been tangled up in legal challenges.